IT is understood Geoffrey Robinson is set to stand down at the eleventh hour as MP for Coventry North-west ahead of May’s elections, the Observer can reveal.
We understand the long-standing MP is set to make an announcement imminently, ending 39 years as MP for one of Labour’s safest constituencies.
There have been rumours for three years that multi-millionaire and former Labour minister Mr Robinson, aged 76, would stand down before this year’s general election.
But he has always publicly denied those rumours, insisting he would stand.
He has so far not been available today to confirm or deny the story emanating from Labour sources.
With the expected announcement coming so close to the election, it is understood the local Coventry North west constituency party fears national party involvement over the selection process for his replacement.
They fear that could effectively deny the local party the opportunity to select its own preferred candidate from its own shortlist. It is thought several Labour councillors have been eying up the seat, should it become vacant.
The Observer has been told of unconfirmed rumours a former aide of ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Greg Beales, is being lined up for the seat.
Mr Robinson is also a former chairman of Jaguar and Coventry City Football Club.
An indication of the strength of the Labour stronghold of Coventry North west is that is has only had two MPs since the Second World War.
Mr Robinson, then a flamboyant businessman and Cambridge and Yale university graduate, replaced Maurice Edelman in 1976.
Mr Robinson was close to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who made him Paymaster General in the cabinet after Labour’s 1997 landslide election victory.
The Blairs even holidayed at Mr Robinson’s Tuscan mansion, one of several properties owned by Mr Robinson.
He lost his cabinet position in 1998 in a row over a mortgage he lent to fellow cabinet minister Peter Mandelson.
More to come.