Tony Blair’s first health secretary Frank Dobson dies at age 79

Frank Dobson receives a kiss from his daughter Sally, (left) and wife Janet after voting in the London mayoral election in 2000 Credit: Fiona Hanson/PA Archive

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 serving 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.

Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson has died aged 79, his family has announced Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA

Announcing his passing, 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.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has paid tribute, tweeting: "Very sad to hear about Frank Dobson.

"We got to know each other campaigning for council homes in Camden in the 1970s. As Council Leader he built them.

"When Frank became Health Secretary he took action to combat health inequality and rebuild our NHS. He'll be greatly missed by all."

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.