Frank Dobson

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Frank Dobson
Frank Dobson MP, crop.jpg
Secretary of State for Health
In office
2 May 1997 11 October 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Stephen Dorrell
Succeeded by Alan Milburn
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
20 October 1994 2 May 1997
Leader Tony Blair
Preceded by Chris Smith
Succeeded by John Gummer
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
In office
21 October 1993 20 October 1994
Leader John Smith
Margaret Beckett (Acting)
Tony Blair
Preceded by John Prescott
Succeeded by Michael Meacher
Shadow Secretary of State for Employment
In office
18 July 1992 21 October 1993
Leader John Smith
Preceded by Tony Blair
Succeeded by John Prescott
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy
In office
2 November 1989 18 July 1992
Leader Neil Kinnock
Preceded by John Prescott
Succeeded by Robin Cook (Trade and Industry)
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
13 July 1987 2 November 1989
Leader Neil Kinnock
Preceded by Peter Shore
Succeeded by Jack Cunningham
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St. Pancras
Holborn and St Pancras South (1979–1983)
In office
3 May 1979 30 March 2015
Preceded by Lena Jeger
Succeeded by Keir Starmer
Personal details
Born (1940-03-15) 15 March 1940 (age 79)
York, England
Political party Labour
Alma mater London School of Economics

Frank Gordon Dobson (born 15 March 1940) is a British Labour Party politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Holborn and St. Pancras from 1979 to 2015. He served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Health from 1997 to 1999, and was the official Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London in 2000, ultimately finishing third in the election, behind Conservative Steven Norris and the winner, Labour-turned-Independent Ken Livingstone. Dobson stood down at the 2015 general election. [1]

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom that has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

Holborn and St Pancras (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1983 onwards

Holborn and St Pancras is a constituency created in 1983, represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom since 2015 by Keir Starmer of the Labour Party.

1979 United Kingdom general election election for members of the British House of Commons

The 1979 United Kingdom general election was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher, ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats. The election was the first of four consecutive election victories for the Conservative Party, and Thatcher became the United Kingdom's and Europe's first elected female head of government.


Early life and career

Dobson was born in York in 1940. His father, a railwayman, died when Dobson was sixteen years old. [2] Dobson attended Dunnington County Church of England Primary School and the Archbishop Holgate Grammar School (now Archbishop Holgate's School). He then studied Economics at the London School of Economics, gaining a BSc in 1962. He worked at the headquarters of the Central Electricity Generating Board from 1962-1970 and for the Electricity Council from 1970-75.

York Historic city in the north of England

York is a city and unitary authority area in North Yorkshire, England, with a population of 208,200 as of 2017. Located at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, it is the county town of the historic county of Yorkshire. The city is known for its famous historical landmarks such as York Minster and the city walls, as well as a variety of cultural and sporting activities, which makes it a popular tourist destination in England. The local authority is the City of York Council, a single tier governing body responsible for providing all local services and facilities throughout the city. The City of York local government district includes rural areas beyond the old city boundaries. It is about 20 miles north-east of Leeds.

Dunnington village in United Kingdom

Dunnington is a village and civil parish in the City of York and ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, England. The population of the civil parish was 3,230 at the 2011 Census. The village is approximately 4 miles (6 km) east from York city centre.

Archbishop Holgate's School is a coeducational Church of England secondary school and sixth form with academy status, located in York, North Yorkshire, England.

After contesting a seat on Camden London Borough Council in 1964, he was elected in 1971 and was chosen virtually unopposed as Labour Group Leader and therefore Leader of the Council, after the resignation of Millie Miller in 1973. [2] He stood down as Leader and resigned from the Council in 1975 on taking up a non-partisan job as Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Local Ombudsman, which he held until 1979.

Camden London Borough Council

Camden London Borough Council is the local authority for the London Borough of Camden in Greater London, England. It is a London borough council, one of 32 in the United Kingdom capital of London. Camden is divided into 18 wards, each electing three councillors.

Millie Miller British politician

Millie Miller was a British Labour Party politician.

Member of Parliament

At the 1979 general election, Dobson was elected as MP for Holborn and St Pancras South (later Holborn and St. Pancras). He voted for Tony Benn for Labour Deputy Leader in 1981 but thereafter became disillusioned, and chose to align with what he called the "sane left". [2]

Holborn and St Pancras South (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1950-1983

Holborn and St Pancras South was a parliamentary constituency centred on the Holborn district of Central London. It returned one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first-past-the-post voting system.

Tony Benn British Labour Party politician

Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn was a British politician, writer, and diarist. He was a Member of Parliament for 47 years between the 1950 and 2001 general elections and a Cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s. Originally a moderate, he was identified as being on the party's hard left from the early 1980s onward, and was widely seen as a key proponent of democratic socialism within the party.

His naturally pugnacious style of politics earned him rapid promotion to the front bench where he served in several important posts from 1982; his liking for dirty jokes and conviviality won him many friends. He once remarked about Hazel Blears, who is 4'10" in height, "The good thing about global warming is that Hazel Blears will be the first to go when the water rises." After the privatisation of the Rover Group in 1988 he quipped, "The price charged for Rover was so low that there is some suspicion that Lord Young thought it was a dog." [2] As Spokesman on Environment and London from 1994, he led the national Labour response to the series of scandals over City of Westminster council and its former leader Shirley Porter.

Hazel Blears British Former Labour politician

Hazel Anne Blears is a former British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Salford and Eccles from 2010 to 2015. Prior to the creation of the Salford and Eccles constituency, she was the MP for Salford from 1997.

Rover Group Former British car company

The Rover Group plc was the British vehicle manufacturing conglomerate known as "BL plc" until 1986, which had been a state-owned company since 1975. It initially included the Austin Rover Group car business, Land Rover Group, Freight Rover vans and Leyland Trucks. The Rover Group also owned the dormant trademarks from the many companies that had merged into BL and its predecessors such as Triumph, Morris, Wolseley, Riley and Alvis.

David Young, Baron Young of Graffham British Baron

David Ivor Young, Baron Young of Graffham, is a British Conservative politician and businessman.

In government

Following Labour's landslide victory at the 1997 general election, Dobson was appointed as Secretary of State for Health. This was a high-profile post but Dobson found it hard to make a big impact. He faced interference from civil servants, who would claim that Blair raised the issue of further private sector involvement in meetings with Dobson, which Dobson said to them "just wasn't true". [2] He also had his hands tied by the decision to stick within spending limits set by the previous Conservative government. Dobson wrote a memo to Blair, saying "If you want a first-class service, you have to pay a first-class fare – and we're not doing it." When money was finally diverted to the NHS, Blair credited Dobson for kickstarting it. [2] Dobson's abolition of the internal market in the NHS was reversed by his successor, Alan Milburn, who Dobson has said was "carried away with the idea that the private sector could make a big contribution". [2]

National Health Service publicly funded healthcare systems within the United Kingdom

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom includes NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and the affiliated Health and Social Care (HSC) in Northern Ireland. They were established together in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following the Second World War. The founding principles were that services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. Each service provides a comprehensive range of health services, free at the point of use for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, apart from dental treatment and optical care. The English NHS also requires patients to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions from these charges.

Alan Milburn British politician

Alan Milburn is a British Labour politician who was Member of Parliament (MP) for Darlington from 1992 to 2010. He served for five years in the Cabinet, first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until 2003, when he resigned. He briefly rejoined the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in order to manage Labour's 2005 re-election campaign. He did not seek re-election in the 2010 election.

Candidate for Mayor of London

Dobson was manoeuvered by the Labour Party leadership into announcing his resignation as an MP in order to stand as Mayor of London in the inaugural elections.[ citation needed ] He beat Ken Livingstone in the Labour Party's internal selection, helped by its electoral college system and the absence of any requirement for affiliated trade unions to ballot their members. In May 2000, Livingstone won the mayoral election as an independent candidate. Dobson finished in third place behind the Conservative candidate Steven Norris, and just ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer. Dobson was subsequently re-elected as an MP, albeit with reduced majorities, at the 2001 and 2005 general elections.

Criticism and controversy

In 2000, Dobson was named "Beard 2000" by the Beard Liberation Front, amid controversy over his claim that Labour spin doctors had told him to shave off his prize-winning beard for the upcoming elections for Mayor of London. Dobson said that he had told them to "Stick it up their wickit". [3]

Frank Dobson has been the subject of controversy for living in a council flat whilst receiving a six-figure ministerial salary. [4] He continues to live there, despite owning a large property in Yorkshire. In an interview in July 2014, he responded to this criticism, saying: "I first lived there when we were subtenants of a subtenant of a private landlord. We were then sold to Camden council. What should I have done? Exercised the right to buy, which I voted against?" [2]

In the Labour leadership controversy following Tony Blair's declaration he would step down within a year of September 2006, Dobson called for Blair to step down right away and end uncertainty.

He also attacked Alan Milburn for making a "terrible mess" of the NHS. Milburn had been mentioned by Charles Clarke as a potential future Labour leader several hours earlier. [5]

Dobson has been criticised for hypocrisy for saying he was against Post Office closures, then voting for their closure in Parliament. [6]

In the expenses scandal, he strongly supported the Speaker of the House in his attempts to block exposure of expenses – arguing he was merely being scapegoated (for instance on Radio 4, 10am, 16 May 2009). He also supported the Speaker in allowing a warrant-less search of the offices of Member of Parliament, Damian Green. [7]

A survey of his constituents revealed that, in 2008, Dobson responded to 69 letters out of 269 sent through, putting him in 605th place out of 638 MPs for which data was available. [8]

Personal life

Dobson's brother, Geoff, was a school teacher who died of liver cancer on the eve of Labour's landslide general election victory in 1997. [2]

Dobson married Janet Mary Alker in 1967. They have three children. [9]

Noted for his "portly frame, jovial expression, and bright white beard", he is sometimes compared humorously to Father Christmas. [2] Dobson is a supporter of West Ham United.

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  1. Camden New Journal,Labour's Frank Dobson 'set to tell party he will step down as MP after 35 years', 5 June 2014 Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Frank Dobson: Labour needs to be 'knocking lumps off' this government". The Guardian. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  3. Groom, Brian (13 March 2000). "Dobson rejects 'clean-shaven' image". Financial Times .
  4. "".
  5. Guardian [ dead link ]
  6. Ham & High [ dead link ]
  7. Frank Dobson (December 2008). "Daily Hansard – Debate". Hansard. Archived from the original on 29 August 2012.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. " Zeitgeist 2008". WriteToThem. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. "Westminster Parliamentary Record: Frank Dobson MP". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lena Jeger
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras South

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras

Succeeded by
Sir Keir Starmer
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Shore
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Jack Cunningham
Preceded by
John Prescott
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy
Succeeded by
Robin Cook
as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Preceded by
Tony Blair
Shadow Secretary of State for Employment
Succeeded by
John Prescott
Preceded by
John Prescott
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Michael Meacher
Preceded by
Chris Smith
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
John Gummer
Preceded by
Stephen Dorrell
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
Alan Milburn