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DOBBO WHIPS IN; MP set for Cabinet return as Blair repays his loyalty.

Byline: NIGEL MORRIS, Whitehall Editor

FRANK Dobson could make a dramatic comeback as Chief Whip after a Labour victory at the next election.

The former Health Secretary stood down from the Cabinet last year to take on Ken Livingstone in the battle to be London Mayor.

But his political career was left in ruins as he crashed to a humiliating third place.

Mr Dobson has since kept a low profile on the back benches and many MPs expected him to bow out quietly.

But last week he was given the job of heading a new Labour team attacking William Hague.

And he has now been pencilled in to replace Ann Taylor as Chief Whip.

His return would be seen as Mr Blair repaying the massive political debt he owes the London MP.

But "Dobbo", widely respected and liked among Labour MPs, is also considered the ideal candidate to impose discipline on a party likely to have a reduced majority.

A senior party figure said: "Tony has a massive amount of respect for Frank. He sees him as Labour through and through.

"He also thinks he was a very solid Secretary of State for Health and respects what he tried to do for the party in London.

"He could have shot off his mouth about standing for Mayor and what happened behind the scenes, but he's been discreet.

"Frank is a formidable operator and Tony knows that. What's more he seems to have got his taste back for politics."

A Government source added: "It's important to show that the party looks after people who do dirty jobs for us.

"Frank would certainly be a popular choice - you know where you are with him. You can rely on him through thick and thin.

"He's too good to waste on the backbenches."

Mrs Taylor has not been popular among many Labour MPs, who regard hear as ineffective and remote.

She could be shifted to a lower-profile Cabinet job or moved to the backbenches.

nigel.morris@mirror.co.uk

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COME=BACK: Dobson looks set to shrug off London Mayor disaster
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 26, 2000
Words:348
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