Obituary: Dominick Harrod, broadcast journalist
Dominick Harrod was one of the first financial correspondents to gain a high profile in the media – partly because his relaxed manner removed many of the complexities of economic and financial affairs. He lightened the invariably disappointing trade figures or downward path of sterling with a keen sense of accurate analysis and a dash of optimistic realism. However bad and disappointing the news, Harrod gave it a gloss that made the viewer feel slightly better.
He was a most erudite and able economist and a keen follower of politics, reporting on the machinations of the Wilson, Heath and Callaghan governments with authority. He was thus able to present his economics reports with an incisive insight into the pressures the politicians were experiencing on both sides of the House.
In the days before Robert Peston was omni-present on the airwaves Harrod became the acknowledged economics guru at the BBC and did much to make the subject more accessible to the general public.
Dominick Roy Harrod was the son of Sir Roy Harrod, the distinguished economist and biographer of John Maynard Keynes. His mother, equally renowned, was an ardent campaigner, with the poet John Betjeman, for the preservation of historic Norfolk churches. Harrod attended Westminster School, and then won a scholarship to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he read philosophy, politics and economics.
On graduating he joined firstly The Sunday Telegraph then The Daily Telegraph, becoming its Washington correspondent in 1968.
He returned to London briefly as the latter’s economics correspondent but in 1971 joined the BBC as economics correspondent. He was to remain with the corporation for the next 20 years, becoming an authority on many aspects of finance and appearing on news and magazine programmes to answer questions on the City and industry. Harrod’s grasp of monetary detail and complex finance situations proved invaluable to the corporation and his reports analysing the Budget and emergency debates were lucid and concise, providing the BBC with an expert opinion before many of its competitors.
Because of his keen interest in politics and his connections in Whitehall, Harrod brought to the BBC’s coverage of general elections a clear interpretation of the swings and flows as results came in.
With his ungimmicky manner and appearance – three-piece suit and tie and conventional hair cut – Harrod came across as a credible commentator. He carefully refrained from using complicated financial jargon and the public respected him greatly.
He was also often heard on Radio 4’s Today programme, where his pithy comments on financial matters were listened to by City traders as they arrived at their offices.
In his two decades at the BBC Harrod had interviewed every prime minister and Chancellor so when John Birt swept a brush through the corporation in 1983 Harrod was made – much to the surprise of colleagues – redundant. The contacts he had gathered in Westminster and Whitehall proved invaluable.
Harrod was appointed the programme director at St George’s House, Windsor Castle. The trust was set up by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966 as a meeting place for influential and prominent people in industry, commerce and academia. Discussions were wide ranging and varied. There are seldom reports of the meetings and the annual lecture (in 1999 delivered by the Lord Mackay of Clashfern and more recently by Sir Tom Stoppard) is given little publicity.
Until 1998 Harrod presided over the institution with a diligent and informed manner, hosting many of its lectures and dinners with elegance and in a refined and gracious style.
Harrod wrote many articles on economic matters (he was president of the Institute of Journalism 1994-95) in a variety of learned periodicals. He wrote two books on economics, The Politics of Economics (1978) and Making Sense of the Economy (1983) both of which were written for the non-professional economist and were read widely by students. He invented what he gleefully described as “Harrod’s Law of Economics” – “The more you see of me, the more trouble we’re in.”
Harrod served on the council of the Save the Children Fund and as chairman of the Friends of Morston Church in Norfolk. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1992 and was a longtime and enthusiastic member of the Garrick Club in London’s Covent Garden.
Dominick Harrod, who was a keen sailor and lover of music, married, in 1974, Christina Hobhouse. She died in 1996, and he is survived by their son.