ANOTHER meeting of the Holborn and St Pancras constituency Labour Party slipped by last night without further clarification about who will stand here at the next general election. Frank Dobson’s future wasn’t exactly an elephant in the room, however, it is almost the topic of open discussion in pub banter, with most aware he is trés unlikely to stand again.
Once private matters had been discussed behind closed doors, I had been invited to hear guest speaker Margaret Hodge lead a Q&A in the second half of the meeting. Yet everybody I passed on the stairs seemed to think I was stumbling about waiting for Frank to finally drop the retirement bomb. “Not tonight Richard,” they giggled. I’m not sure what that says about what Labour members think of me, or what they think of Margaret Hodge’s draw for a journalist, but the speculation about who will take up Frank’s sabre, and when, is clearly now reason for knowing chuckles.
One of the shared jokes is based on the idea that Frank was in fact ready to make his announcement and give something of a farewell speech last night, but deferred after the World Cup fixture list saw the meeting clash with England’s match with Costa Rica. When Hodge began speaking in the basement of the Unite union’s offices in Holborn, she remarked on the size of the turnout given the England game had just been on, insisting that England might have drawn but Labour would win next year. In the end, Frank sent his apologies and the search for a successor will stretch into autumn.
For Hodge’s part, if this was a way of putting herself in the mayoral shop window, as the cynics will tell you, it was a decent enough job, celebrating the work of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster was a way of reminding everyone about the days she barked at Amazon, Google and Starbucks over their tax affairs. She told the room that on a visit to Paris she had been told by admirers that she was a ‘tax rockstar’ for her performances heading the committee.