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Frank Gordon Dobson (born 15 March 1940) is a Britsh Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Holborn and St. Pancrasmarker 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.

Early life

Dobson's father was a railwayman and he was born in Yorkmarker, England where he attended Dunningtonmarker County C of E Primary School and the Archbishop Holgate Grammar School (became Archbishop Holgate's Schoolmarker in 1985) on Hull Road. He then studied Economics at the London School of Economicsmarker, gaining a BSc in 1962. He worked for the headquarters of the Central Electricity Generating Board from 1962-70 and the Electricity Council from 1970 to 1975. From 1975 to 1979, he was Assistant Secretary of the Office of Local Ombudsman. After fighting for a seat on Camden Borough Councilmarker in 1964, he was elected in 1971 and rose so rapidly that he 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 Local Ombudsman. In 1979 he was elected as MP for Holborn and St Pancras South (later Holborn and St. Pancrasmarker). 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 despite his partisanship. As Spokesman on Environment and London from 1994 he led the national Labour response to the series of scandals over City of Westminstermarker council and its former leader Shirley Porter.

In government

However, 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 difficult to make a significant impact because of the decision to stick within spending limits set by the previous Conservative government. Dobson brought in Labour's proposal to introduce controversial Private Finance Initiative Hospitals.

Election for Mayor of London

Dobson was manoeuvred by the Labour Party leadership into announcing his resignation in order to stand as Mayor of London in the inaugural elections. He managed to beat Ken Livingstone in the Labour Party's internal selection, helped by an electoral college system that tended to favour him and no requirement for affiliated trade unions to ballot their members. In May 2000, Livingstone fought and won the Mayoral election as an independent candidate. Dobson finished third behind Livingstone and the Conservative candidate Steven Norris, and just ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer. Dobson has since been a critical friend of the Government and was re-elected as an MP, albeit with a reduced majority, in the May 2005 general election. He was one of the main opponents of the Iraq war from within the Labour Party, proposing the anti-war motion in the crucial House of Commons debate on the subject.

Criticism and controversy

Dobson controversially continues to inhabit a council flat despite his salary as MP being over £60,000.

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 some hours earlier been mentioned by Charles Clarke as a possible future Labour leader.

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, Damien Green. .

Personal life

He married Janet Mary Alker in 1967 and they have two sons and a daughter. He is a fan of West Ham United.

In late 2006 he underwent a quadruple bypass and was away from parliament for a considerable time but is believed to have recovered well, and has been active since.


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