Tenacious, principled, and effective, Jim Dobbin fought for the marginalised and forgotten

by Kevin Meagher

Truly, Jim Dobbin was one of Parliament’s nice guys. A quiet and genial man, he was also a principled and effective Member of Parliament and tireless campaigner. His sad death today at 73, while on a Council of Europe trip to Poland, is a huge loss to a range of issues and causes that could always count on Jim as a reliable supporter.

A coal miner’s son from Fife, Jim was a committed Catholic and, as Ed Miliband has noted, his faith informed every aspect of his politics.

As chairman of the all-party pro-life group, Jim nailed his colours firmly to the mast on all the most contentious issues; abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage. He pursued what he believed in tenaciously, but respectfully towards those he disagreed with.

The news section of his website tells its own tale: Gaza, better palliative care, audio-visual facilities on buses for blind and partially-sighted people, better cancer awareness, support for those with dementia, help for the disabled. Jim was pro-life is the very widest sense of the term.

Indeed, like all the best backbenchers, he was an active campaigner on overlooked issues. Whether it was championing better polio immunisation for children in Syria, or calling for an annual Windrush Day to remember the contribution of the first-generation Caribbean community, Jim Dobbin took an interest in the marginalised and forgotten.

As a lobbyist, I dealt with him on many occasions and my abiding impression of him was as a wise, kind and unfailing courteous man. But like all softly-spoken Scots in Labour politics, there was steel there too. Quiet and modest, but tough and wily with it.

I once sat in his constituency office trying to persuade Jim to back a controversial wind farm project. He smiled as he explained why there was no chance of him backing it, but helpfully went through how the scheme could be improved. His advice was gratefully received.

His final parliamentary intervention came in a debate last week about the Government’s plans to press ahead with mitochondrial replacement therapies. A former NHS microbiologist for thirty years, Jim made a telling intervention enquiring why ministers were rushing through the changes without proper scientific peer review.

First elected to Parliament in 1997 (after previously serving on Rochdale council for a decade and a half), Jim held his Heywood and Middleton seat in Rochdale in 2010 with a 5,971 majority.

Although blighted by poverty and facing huge social and economic disadvantages (indeed, the area was used as the location for Raining Stones, Ken Loach’s classic 1993 film about loan-sharking) Jim Dobbin was nevertheless an assiduous local MP.

He had intended to fight next year’s election and earlier this summer had been reselected by his constituency party.

Jim’s wife, Pat, and their children and families will be joined by his many friends in the Labour, Co-operative and trade union movements and, indeed, across the House of Commons, in mourning his untimely death.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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4 Responses to “Tenacious, principled, and effective, Jim Dobbin fought for the marginalised and forgotten”

  1. Sarah says:

    “Jim Dobbin fought for the marginalised and forgotten.”

    Unless you were gay or needed an abortion.

  2. Tafia says:

    This is potentially a nightmare by-Election for Labour. I used to have a pub there and still have friends there – and believe me, they are not impressed with Labour over immigration etc. The Middleton end of the constituency is the home of the murdered fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby and there is enormous anger still felt over that. At the other end of the Constituency is Heywood which – like Middleton, is part of Rochdale Borough Council – recently had a long-term Pakistani grooming case dealt with, with more to come and with a senior GMP Police Officer saying less than a fortnight ago that it could have been dealt with years ago but was politically suppressed by the last government.

    You would expect that if Labour intend to win the next election that not only would their vote increase but their percentage share will also increase.

    But I wouldn’t bet on it. UKIP etc have been very active at street and pub level regarding Islamic extremism, Pakistani grooming gangs and both Labour’s and the Tories unwillingness to openly condemn the communities concerned or discuss it all publicly. And the people are angry.

  3. John P Reid says:

    So sad, he was ever so grateful to me,when I found his co-op cheque book, he lost a few months ago

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