Ed Miliband leads tributes as Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin dies aged 73

The sudden death of Manchester MP Jim  Dobbin has triggered a by-election for Heywood and Middleton.

The 73-year-old Labour MP was on a visit to the Polish city of Sluspk for a Council of Europe meeting where he unexpectedly passed away over the weekend.

His wife of 50 years, Pat, had been travelling with him, along with other politicians including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Mr Dobbin had been in Parliament on Friday to take part in a vote on the bedroom tax and had been speaking at a meeting of the think-tank Progress where he was described as ‘on great form’.

He had been due to fly back to the UK yesterday before he was suddenly taken ill.

A devout Catholic, Mr Dobbin was one of a few Labour MPs to vote against equal marriage for same sex couples in 2013. 

Fellow Manchester MPs paid tribute to their colleague, with Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell saying it was appropriate one of his last acts had been voting to end the bedroom tax.

She said: “Really sorry to hear of the sudden death of Jim Dobbin MP. I only saw him on Friday voting against Bedroom Tax. He was a great MP.”

Bury South MP Ivan Lewis said Dobbin was a man ‘of great integrity and decency’ who would be ‘sadly missed’.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would ‘miss Jim’s friendship and decency’ and offered ‘sincere condolences to his wife and children on behalf of the Labour Party’.

“Jim Dobbin’s death is a sad day for Parliament,” he said. “He was a dedicated public servant, representing the people of Rochdale for three decades.”

Mr Dobbin’s death leaves his constituency, including the towns of Heywood and Middleton and parts of West Rochdale, without an MP. A by-election will need to be held later this year.

Born in Scotland as the son of a coal miner, Dobbin had long connections with greater Manchester having worked as a microbiologist at Oldham Hospital for 22 years prior to his election to Parliament in 1997.

He also served as a Rochdale Councillor from 1983, being leader of the Council from 1996-97.

His commitment to the Church was recognised by former Pope Benedict who made him a Papal Knight in 2008.

Mr Dobbin’s background as a microbiologist also contributed to his work in parliament, where he chaired the All Party Group on Child Heath and campaigned for improved vaccination programmes in the developing world.

Known for his wit he was popular across parties, with Conservative MP Conor Burns saying ‘he was a man of huge integrity and warmth. Stranger’s bar will miss his humour’.

The looming by-election will be viewed with some nervousness in Westminster with UKIP currently leading the polls in the Clacton by-election due to be held on October 9.

Mr Dobbin had a majority of more than 17,000 over the Conservatives when first elected in 1997 but by 2010 this had fallen to just under 6,000.

The Labour Party may launch their campaign to keep the seat at their Party Conference, which is being held in Manchester from September 21-24.

Image courtesy of Parliamentary Copyright via YouTube, with thanks.

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