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Tributes paid to ‘one of the greatest parliamentarians of our time’ Frank Dobson

Frank Dobson addresses constituency party members in his farewell speech. Picture: Mark Hakansson. Frank Dobson addresses constituency party members in his farewell speech. Picture: Mark Hakansson.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
11:08 AM

Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson confirmed he will be ending his 35-year career in parliament at next year’s general election with an emotional departure speech to constituency party members last night.

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Frank Dobson's original election leaflet from 1979.Frank Dobson's original election leaflet from 1979.

The 74-year-old made the announcement to fellow Labour members at a constituency party meeting at Camden Town Hall before hearing tributes from a packed council chamber.

Mr Dobson, who has served continually as MP since 1979, told the meeting: “No surprise. I’ve decided not to stand at the next general election. I’ll be 75 by then and I don’t think I could do the job properly for much longer.

“I have been both flattered and surprised by the number of people who have stopped me in the street, on the bus, at meetings and my advice services to say they hope it’s not true [that I’m leaving].

“[My wife} Janet has pointed out that this must be the time to go, much better than waiting until people start saying, ‘Isn’t it time you went?’”

Mr Dobson’s highest office while in parliament has been as health secretary, a position he assumed when Tony Blair came to power in 1997, which he said he “foolishly” resigned from to stand as Mayor of London.

He noted that in the “midst of all the current generalised criticism of Tony Blair...we should not forget that he achieved the Good Friday Agreement”.

He also declared his confidence in Ed Miliband leading Labour to election victory next year, insisting the Labour leader had “changed world politics” by blocking David Cameron’s plans for military intervention in Syria and that “no previous leader of the opposition ever did that”.

Fighting back tears, Mr Dobson concluded by saying: “We’re it. When our government is together, we can beat anybody and when we get together, we can do things and we can make this country a better place, we can make Camden a better place and we can make the world a better place.”

Camden Council leader Sarah Hayward, who is believed to be now challenging to replace Mr Dobson, was one of many to pay tribute to him last night.

She said her administration now “stand on the shoulders of Frank’s legacy” as a former Camden Council leader before entering parliament.

There were also tributes from former CPS chief Sir Keir Starmer, London Assembly Member Tom Copley and former Camden Council leader Raj Chada, who are also all believed to be keen on the Labour safe seat.

Sir Keir described Mr Dobson as “one of the greatest parliamentarians of our time” and paid tribute to “a life dedicated to principle, commitment, campaigning, conviviality”.

Mr Chada, who is chairman of Holborn and St Pancras Labour, added: “It’s an eternal truth in Holborn and St Pancras constituency that everyone has a story about Frank Dobson and how ‘Frank’ has helped them.”

While the Labour race to select a candidate to replace Mr Dobson will get underway imminently, the Conservative Party selected communications consultant Will Blair as their candidate last week.

The 29-year-old, who moved to Camden after university seven years ago and has lived in Kentish Town since 2009, ran unsuccessfully for Highgate ward in May’s local elections.

He will be joined in next year’s election race by Green Party leader Natalie Bennett who was selected earlier this year to stand for her party in Holborn and St Pancras.

It is understood the Liberal Democrats are still months away from selecting their candidate.

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