Yorkshire-born former Health Secretary Frank Dobson dies at the age of 79

File photo dated 30/09/99 of the then prime minister Tony Blair (left) and former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson before addressing the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth. Pic: PA
File photo dated 30/09/99 of the then prime minister Tony Blair (left) and former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson before addressing the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth. Pic: PA
Have your say

Frank Dobson, Tony Blair's first health secretary after the landslide Labour victory in 1997, has died at the age of 79.

The Yorkshire-born politician 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, who was born in York and attended Dunnington County Church of England Primary School and the Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, was Labour's candidate at the mayoral election in 2000, having been persuaded to go for the newly-created job by Mr Blair.

Read more: Party leaders urged to publicly back HS2 as leaked report suggests Leeds link won't be axed

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of fracking U-turn as firms told applications "will be considered"

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

A family spokesman confirmed the former cabinet minister had died following a "longstanding illness".

"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," said the spokesman.

"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."

Mr Dobson entered the Commons the same year Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.

Following his unsuccessful bid for City Hall at the turn of the millennium, he returned to the backbenches and spoke out against a string of party policies including the Iraq War, top-up fees for students, the marketisation of parts of the NHS, and longer detention without charge for terror suspects.

Following his decision to step down in 2015, the West Ham supporter said at the time: "It has been an honour to represent the people of Holborn and St Pancras for all these years and to have made at least some contribution to making it a better place to live.

"I am proud of the people I represent. They get on together and help one another.

"Outsiders who have tried to stir up divisions have always failed. Common sense and human decency have prevailed.

"It has been hard work keeping up with the needs and aspirations of local people and helping resolve their problems. My constituents have been slow to chide and swift to bless."

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

Tony Blair, the Labour prime minister who promoted Mr Dobson to health secretary, called him a "politician of the highest calibre".

Mr Blair said: "Frank Dobson was an exemplary public servant and politician of the highest calibre.

"He made an immense contribution to getting Labour back into power in the 1990s and then was the first Labour secretary of state for health in almost 20 years.

"Despite the tight spending limits for the first two years, Frank made many important improvements to the NHS, an institution he cared about deeply.

"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.

"My thoughts are with Janet and his family to whom I send my condolences and sympathy."