Frank Dobson, the son of a York railway worker who became a cabinet minister, has died aged 79

12 Nov 2019 @ 12.52 pm
| News

Tributes from across the political spectrum are pouring in to Frank Dobson, the former Labour Health Secretary, who has died aged 79.

Born in York in 1940, Mr Dobson was the son of a railwayman and attended Dunnington County Church of England Primary School and the Archbishop Holgate Grammar School (now Archbishop Holgate’s School).

He left the city to pursue a degree at the London School of Economics, and that was when he became active in politics.

The veteran Labour MP, who died on Monday night, stood down at the 2015 general election after representing Holborn and St Pancras in London since 1979.

Rachael Maskell, the Labour Party candidate for York Central, said: “Very sad to hear that Frank Dobson has died. Frank became a very good friend when he moved back to York.

“I will miss his kindness and wisdom. My thoughts are with his family today.”

Lord Mayor of York Janet Looker told Minster FM: “He was a supporter of York and he still has a lot of good friends here who, like me, will be grieved that an outstanding politician has died.”

York Hospital praised

Campaigning in 1995
A family spokesman confirmed the former cabinet minister had died following a “longstanding illness”. He said:

  • The Dobson family, is sad to announce the death of Frank Dobson, former MP for Holborn and St Pancras and secretary of state for health.

    His family would like to thank all the staff at the Homerton University Hospital for their outstanding expertise, commitment and care in the last few months and also the staff of York Hospital for his previous excellent care.

    He also greatly appreciated the support of his many friends and former parliamentary colleagues.

He leaves behind his wife, Janet, and their three children.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who appointed Mr Dobson as Health Secretary, said today: “Frank Dobson was an exemplary public servant and politician of the highest calibre.

“He was a great colleague with an often pugnacious style but always loyal to the Labour Party and to changing the lives of people for the better.”

On the election campaign trail in Blackpool Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “He was also a great raconteur, a great purveyor of stories, a great source of gossip around the House of Commons and a great wit in many ways and would always remember the good and the bad in just about everybody he met.”

Conservative health secretary Matt Hancock paid tribute to Mr Dobson on Twitter. He wrote: “Just heard the news that Frank Dobson has passed away.

“From one health secretary to another, thank you for your years of service and devotion to our health service.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote: “So sad to hear the news about Frank Dobson. A hero of the London Labour movement – his kindness, commitment to reducing inequality, and unique sense of humour will be much missed.”

Service and devotion

Frank Dobson campaigning against the Clifford’s Tower visitor centre plans in 2017. Photograph: YorkMix
Mr Dobson entered the Commons the same year Margaret Thatcher became prime minister. He resigned from the House of Commons four years ago, having served as Holborn and St Pancras MP for 36 years.

He was replaced by Sir Keir Starmer, now the shadow Brexit secretary.

The former leader of Camden Council was Labour’s candidate at the mayoral election in 2000, having been persuaded to go for the newly-created job by Mr Blair.

Mr Dobson came third, losing out to then-Independent Ken Livingstone. Tory Steve Norris came second.

He continued to play a part in York politics throughout his life.

In 2003 he addressed a University of York demo against tuition fees, and in 2017 spoke to campaigners fighting the plans to build a visitor centre into the motte at Clifford’s Tower.