Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary, is to stand down as an MP at the next election.
Dobson, who was Labour's candidate for London mayor in 2000, has decided to retire primarily on the grounds that he will be 75 by polling day next year. By then he will have served 36 years as MP for Holborn and St Pancras. A formal announcement from Dobson is expected at a meeting of his local party on Tuesday.
Dobson had a majority of nearly 10,000 at the last election. Among those likely to seek the Labour nomination to succeed him is Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions, whose candidature would be supported – at least covertly – by the Labour leadership.
Dobson held a string of shadow cabinet posts during Labour's long period in opposition. But he was never a fervent evangelist for New Labour and his stint as Tony Blair's health secretary lasted only two and a half years. With Blair's encouragement, he resigned from the cabinet to stop Ken Livingstone becoming Labour's inaugural candidate for London mayor. Dobson did beat Livingstone in the party selection, amid claims the rules were rigged against Livingstone, but then faced the embarrassment of coming third in the election itself, which was won comfortably by Livingstone standing as an independent. Dobson never returned to government.
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