Labour 'icon' Frank Dobson dies aged 79, reveal family as friends and colleagues remember the 'thoughtful and patient' former health secretary who loved his jokes and curry

  • Former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson died aged 79 his family announce
  • He was former MP for Holborn and St Pancras and Secretary of State for Health
  • The veteran Labour MP, who died on Monday night, stood down at 2015 election

Tributes poured in for former health secretary Frank Dobson today after the ex-Labour minister died at the age of 79. 

The veteran, who was in charge of the NHS in Tony Blair's first administration after the party's landslide election victory in 1997, passed away after suffering from what a family spokesman said was a 'longstanding illness'.

In a long and varied career he served as  MP for Holborn and St Pancras in London for 36 years. 

He did a two-year stint as health secretary until 1999 before being convinced by Mr Blair to stand as Labour's candidate at the mayoral election in 2000.

But he suffered a major setback when he came third, losing out to then-Independent Ken Livingstone in a result seen as a snub to the prime minister, with Tory Steve Norris second. 

The Yorkshire-born politician quit at the 2015 election and was replaced in his north London seat by Sir Keir Starmer, now the shadow Brexit secretary. 

Former colleague David Lammy said: 'Frank was my mentor for many years in my early years in politics and in so many ways an icon in London Labour and the wider movement. Rooted in the community he loved a curry, was v funny, kind and patient.'

Former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson has died aged 79, his family has announced
Frank Dobson died on Monday night, his family have announced

Former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson (pictured) has died aged 79, his family has announced

And former minister Yvette Cooper added: 'To this day NHS staff tell me Frank was best Health Secretary they ever worked with putting foundations in place to rebuild our NHS under a Labour govt. He was an ongoing source of support, advice and friendship.' 

Announcing his death today, a family spokesman 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.'

PFrank Dobson with his daughter Sally, (left) and wife Janet in May 2000

PFrank Dobson with his daughter Sally, (left) and wife Janet in May 2000

Frank Dobson, pictured with former Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) has died at the age of 79

Frank Dobson, pictured with former Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) has died at the age of 79

Sir Keir Starmer, now Labour candidate for Holborn and St Pancras, posted a statement on Twitter.

He said: 'I'm deeply saddened to hear about the death of Frank Dobson.

'He dedicated his life to serve the people of Camden and a Labour Party he loved. He will be remembered for his straight talking, good humour and the passion he brought to every job he had, including Health Secretary.

'I will remember a close friend who, even after he retired, never stopped giving me advice and support, and doing what he could to get a Labour Government. He will be sorely missed. My thoughts go out to his family.'

Catherine West, Labour candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green,  said on Twitter: 'Condolences to the Dobson family, we've lost a wonderful former Secretary of State for Health and lifelong champion of the NHS.

'Campaigned for Labour in Hornsey in 2015. RIP Frank.'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock 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 also paid tribute to former Labour MP Frank Dobson on Twitter.

He 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.'

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: 'Very sad news. RIP.'

The Yorkshire-born politician resigned from the House of Commons four years ago, having serving as Holborn and St Pancras MP for 36 years. He was replaced by Sir Keir Starmer (pictured together)

The Yorkshire-born politician resigned from the House of Commons four years ago, having serving as Holborn and St Pancras MP for 36 years. He was replaced by Sir Keir Starmer (pictured together)

The former leader of Camden Council was Labour's candidate at the mayoral election in 2000. He lost out to Ken Livingstone (pictured with Mr Dobson)

The former leader of Camden Council was Labour's candidate at the mayoral election in 2000. He lost out to Ken Livingstone (pictured with Mr Dobson)

Leader of the Camden Tories Oliver Cooper tweeted: 'Very saddened to hear of the death of Frank Dobson. Whatever one's politics, he rarely gave constituents in Camden reason to have a bad word to say about him as a constituency MP.' 

And Labour's Rushanara Ali, who has been the MP for London's Bethnal Green and Bow since 2010, tweeted: 'Absolutely heartbreaking news about Frank Dobson. 

'He did so much to help me win my seat against George Galloway's Respect Party.

'He was like a guardian angel, always coming to the rescue, helping us cope with what was a very divisive and sometimes dangerous political environment.'

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.

The family statement 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. Pictured: Dobson alongside former PM Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah

The family statement 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. Pictured: Dobson alongside former PM Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah

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.

Labour's former health secretary Frank Dobson dies aged 79, reveal family

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