Frank Gordon Dobson (born 15 March 1940) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Holborn and St. Pancras since 1979. 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 winner Ken Livingstone.
Dobson's father was a railwayman. Dobson was born in York, England where he attended Dunnington County Church of England Primary School and the Archbishop Holgate Grammar School (which became Archbishop Holgate's School in 1985). 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 to 1970 and for the Electricity Council from 1970 to 1975. From 1975 to 1979, he was Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Local Ombudsman. After fighting for a seat on Camden London Borough Council in 1964, he was elected in 1971 and was chosen as Labour Group Leader (and therefore Leader of the Council) after the resignation of Millie Miller in 1973.
Member of Parliament
He stood down as Leader in 1975 and resigned from the Council on taking up a non-partisan job as Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Local Ombudsman. In 1979 he was elected as MP for Holborn and St Pancras South (later Holborn and St. Pancras). 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. 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.
When Labour won power in 1997, 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, due to the decision to stick within spending limits set by the previous Conservative government. Dobson's abolition of the internal market in the NHS was reversed by his successor, Alan Milburn.
Candidate for Mayor of London
Dobson was manoeuvred by the Labour Party leadership into announcing his resignation to stand as Mayor of London in the inaugural elections. 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 third behind the Conservative candidate Steven Norris, and just ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer. Dobson was then re-elected as an MP, albeit with a reduced majority, in the May 2005 general election.
Criticism and controversy
Frank Dobson has been the subject of controversy for living in a council flat whilst on a six figure ministerial salary. He continues to live in it, despite owning a large property in Yorkshire.
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.
Dobson has been criticised for hypocrisy for saying he was against Post Office closures, then voting for them in Parliament.
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 a member of parliament, Damian Green.
A survey of his constituents showed that, in 2008, Dobson responded to 69 letters out of 269 sent through WriteToThem.com, putting him in 605th place out of 638 MPs for which data were available.
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Dobson married Janet Mary Alker in 1967. They have two sons and a daughter. He is a supporter of West Ham United.
In late 2006 he underwent a quadruple cardiac arterial bypass and was absent from Parliament for a period.
- Frank Dobson MP official constituency site
- Camden Labour Party official party site
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras South
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras
|Secretary of State for Health