Jim Dobbin

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Jim Dobbin

Jim Dobbin.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Heywood and Middleton
In office
1 May 1997 – 6 September 2014
Preceded byJim Callaghan
Succeeded byLiz McInnes
Majority5,971 (12.9%)
Personal details
Born(1941-05-26)26 May 1941
Fife, Scotland, UK
Died6 September 2014(2014-09-06) (aged 73)
Słupsk, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland
Political partyLabour Co-operative
Spouse(s)Patricia Russell[1]
Alma materNapier College, Edinburgh

James Dobbin, KSG, KMCO (26 May 1941 – 6 September 2014) was a British Labour Co-operative politician and microbiologist, who was Member of Parliament (MP) for Heywood and Middleton from 1997 until his death in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Jim Dobbin was born in Fife, Scotland, the son of a coal miner, and educated at Catholic schools. He later studied bacteriology and virology at Napier College, Edinburgh.

He worked as a microbiologist within the NHS for 33 years until 1994, mainly at the Royal Oldham Hospital. He was elected chairman of the Rochdale Constituency Labour Party for a year in 1980.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1983 he was elected as a councillor in the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, becoming the Labour group leader in 1994, and became the leader of the council in 1996. He stepped down from both the National Health Service and the council at Rochdale on his election to the House of Commons. In 1992 he had unsuccessfully contested the Bury North seat, coming second to the sitting Conservative MP Alistair Burt, by 4,764 votes.

Dobbin was elected to the House of Commons at the 1997 General Election for the safe Labour seat of Heywood and Middleton on the retirement of the Labour MP Jim Callaghan. He held the seat comfortably with a majority of 17,542 and remained its MP for the rest of his life. He made his maiden speech on 30 July 1997.[3] He was a member of the European Scrutiny Select Committee from 1998 to 2014.

In February 2012, he signed a petition sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage which states "I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it."[4]

Dobbin was heavily criticised for his rudeness to cyclists on the "House of Commons Transport Select Committee to Discuss Cycling" in December 2013.[5][6][7]


Dobbin employed his wife to be his secretary in the House of Commons, a practice which has attracted significant national debate, but remains permissible under House of Commons rules.[8][9] Rochdale council leader Colin Lambert,[10] Labour councillor Alan Godson,[11] as well as former Labour councillor Brian Leather, were employed by Dobbin, and remunerated from his parliamentary expenses.[12]

In May 2009 it was revealed that Dobbin claimed more public funds for staff than the other MPs in Greater Manchester: £99,700.[13] He defended this by observing that he also had the largest number of constituents. Nationally, he had one of the lowest overall expense bills, with 504 out of 646 MPs having higher expense claims than him.[12]


Dobbin died in Słupsk, Poland, on 6 September 2014, aged 73.[14][15] He was in the country for a Council of Europe visit, on which he was accompanied by Lord Prescott and MP Alan Meale.[16] He had attended an official dinner during which the participants drank a shot of spirits between each course, and his blood alcohol level was 0.399, nearly five times the UK drink-drive limit.[17] Having felt unwell at the end of the meal, he was taken to bed. During the night, his wife was unable to wake him and it was later discovered that food had entered his lungs thus stopping his breathing. His death was investigated by a British coroner who ruled 'death by misadventure'.[17]

His funeral consisted of a Requiem Mass held at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Salford, on 20 September 2014. It was attended by senior figures in the world of politics, including Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, and John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. He was later interred during a private burial.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Dobbin chaired the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and campaigned strongly for a change to British abortion law.[19] A devout Roman Catholic, he was awarded and invested as a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great from Pope Benedict XVI.[20] Dobbin was also honoured by the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George under the grandmastership of the Duke of Castro with the rank of Knight of Merit with Star.

He married Patricia Russell in 1964; the couple had two sons and two daughters.


  1. ^ House of Commons – The Register of Members' Financial Interests – Part 2. Publications.parliament.uk; retrieved 7 September 2013.
  2. ^ Dobbin, James (2017). Who's who. Bloomsbury Press.
  3. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 30 July 1997 (pt 4). Publications.parliament.uk (30 July 1997); retrieved 4 February 2013.
  4. ^ Signatories: Coalition For Marriage Archived 24 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. C4m.org.uk; retrieved 4 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Dinosaur MPs on transport committee know little about cycling and care less". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group (G.M.G.). 3 December 2013.
  6. ^ "MPs should be embarrassed by Select Committee inquiry says Boardman". British Cycling. British Cycling Organisation. 3 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Chris Boardman says cycling safety MPs embarrassingly ignorant". BBC News. BBC. 3 December 2013.
  8. ^ Should MPs employ wives and husbands? – Channel 4 News. Channel4.com (25 October 2009). Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  9. ^ Prince, Rosa (29 March 2010). "MPs' expenses: wives and family members can still be employed". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group.
  10. ^ Council, Rochdale Metropolitan Borough (22 April 2017). "Councillor details - Councillor Colin Lambert".
  11. ^ Council, Rochdale Metropolitan Borough (22 April 2017). "Councillor details - Councillor Alan Godson".
  12. ^ a b Harvey, Paul (21 May 2009). "MPs defend expenses". Middleton Guardian. M.E.N. Media.
  13. ^ "Jim Dobbin's expenses". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media. 19 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Jim". Jimdobbin.org; retrieved 8 September 2014.
  15. ^ INTERIA.PL. "Parlamentarzysta z Wlk. Brytanii zmarł w szpitalu w Słupsku".
  16. ^ "Labour MP Jim Dobbin dies aged 73". BBC. BBC News. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  17. ^ a b "Heywood MP Jim Dobbin 'died from drinking spirits'". BBC News. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Labour MP Jim Dobbin's funeral takes place in Salford". BBC News. 20 September 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  19. ^ "ProLife Alliance laments passing of Jim Dobbin MP". ProLife Alliance. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  20. ^ . "Jim is all knight after Pope's special honour". Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Callaghan
Member of Parliament for Heywood and Middleton
Succeeded by
Liz McInnes