Health secretary Frank Dobson and the cerebral MP for York Hugh Bayley are old friends; together with public health minister Tessa Jowell, they form a trio of ex-Camden councillors who have become key players in New Labour's health agenda.

Mr Bayley was chair of St Pancras North Labour party in 1982, when Mr Dobson, then MP for Holborn and St Pancras South, was chosen over neighbouring MP Jock Stallard (St Pancras North) as Labour's man for the redrawn seat of Holborn and St Pancras.

In the turbulent internal party battles of the mid-1980s, councillors Jowell and Bayley used to meet in his drawing room to plot against Camden's 'loony left'. Both were modernisers, supporters of Neil Kinnock; both became MPs in 1992.

But while Ms Jowell's fortunes moved swiftly into the ascendant both in opposition and government, Mr Bayley's career has remained doggedly earthbound.

One political pundit, writing after Tony Blair became party leader, marked Mr Bayley down as 'one of the promising members of the 1992 intake, a fairly safe bet for any future Labour government - his unfashionably elitist schooling being no bar in a Blair-led party'.

But no opposition post came his way. Ironically, his old mate Mr Dobson - not an obvious respecter of public school credentials - gave Mr Bayley his first job last May, when he chose him as his parliamentary private secretary. If his political career has yet to take off, there is little doubt that he has had more than a passing influence on post-1992 Labour health policy development.

In 1993, he was behind the first attempt to legislate curbs on tobacco advertising. His private member's bill failed, but is a recognisable ancestor of the government's more successful recent attempts in this area.

His work on the NHS resource allocation system while on the Commons health committee helped reveal how it had been tweaked to favour traditionally Tory shire areas. Labour has now made the formula more equitable.

Mr Bayley was a NALGO officer, a television producer, and a health economist at York University before capturing York at the second attempt in 1992. In opposition, he was an assiduous asker of parliamentary questions on health.

PPS rules prevent him getting involved in health. But, as he says pointedly, 'it is now easier to obtain information because those who control information trust you'.

However, Hansard does record one typical Bayley intervention on health since May: mid-way through a Tory claim that the Conservatives had put more cash into the NHS than Labour, he erupted: 'That is rubbish. It is not true.'