Dobson shows a brave face, despite being 'shafted' by Downing Street

What now for Frank Dobson? As his friends last night blamed Downing Street for the humiliating defeat, the future looked far from certain for the former Secretary of State for Health.

Mr Livingstone, in his victory speech, said Mr Dobson had "borne a terrible brunt of odium", which should have been reserved for people who worked "behind the scenes".

As Mr Livingstone swept off for a walk-about, Mr Dobson left the QE2 Centre in Westminster, where the prolonged count took place, in his black-windowed campaign mini-bus, without saying a word. Later, he had lunch on the terrace of the Commons with his wife and his close campaign team, including Ann Keen, his former ministerial aide, and Clive Efford, the MP for Eltham, south-east London. He then drove to Millbank to thank his campaign team.

Mr Dobson was keeping a brave face in spite of the defeat. He refused to join in the recriminations and turned down the offer of a substantial five figure sum from a Sunday newspaper for the inside story of his campaign disaster, in which he came within a whisker of being forced into fourth place.

But ministerial colleagues and friends of Mr Dobson, who gave up his Cabinet seat as Health Secretary to run for mayor at Tony Blair's bidding, accused No 10 of "shafting Dobbo". "I feel very sorry for Frank," said a minister. "He is a very capable politician, but Downing Street got it hopelessly wrong by interfering, just as they did over Alun Michael in Wales. The voters thought he was Blair's poodle and Frank is certainly not that."

Another friend said: "I think Frank has been incredibly let down by the system. Frank has been the whipping boy for other people's failures. He was shafted."

Mr Blair yesterday telephoned Mr Dobson from Northern Ireland to thank him for running against Ken Livingstone. Mr Blair could give Mr Dobson a peerage but friends said the MP did not want to go to the House of Lords.

Mr Dobson's friends are hoping he will return to the centre of politics at Westminster, but there is not likely to be a place for him in Mr Blair's next Cabinet reshuffle in July. "Blair can't put a failure in the Cabinet," said one of his opponents.

A senior party source said: "I don't think he will be out of public life for very long. He is an amazing character with a lot to offer."

In his speech at the count, Mr Dobson said he accepted his fair share of Labour's failure but said he hoped he had not let too many people down. Although he had lost the election, he had enjoyed the campaign and did not regret his decision to stand.

To loud applause, he said: "I continue to believe that in a democracy we have to tell the people the truth whether it turns out to be popular or not."

Mr Dobson, who was persuaded to run at last year's annual Labour party conference, criticised Downing Street at the start of the campaign for its "stop Ken" campaign, which he believes backfired against him.

The manoeuvring included the electoral college system giving extra weight to the votes of MPs to try to prevent Mr Livingstone from being selected.

Mr Dobson remains convinced he could have defeated Mr Livingstone in a one-member, one-vote ballot for the party's candidate, which would have prevented the former GLC leader being cast as the victim of a No 10 "stitch up".

Some of the Labour campaign team at Millbank were also keen to avoid sharing the blame for the debacle. Mr Dobson was privately accused of running a lacklustre campaign, and of being caught too often on the defensive by Mr Livingstone, particularly over the Government's plans for partial privatisation of the Tube.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk