Obituary: Geoffrey Goodman, CBE, journalist

Geoffrey Goodman, former Daily Mirror journalist. Picture: Contributed
Geoffrey Goodman, former Daily Mirror journalist. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 2 July, 1921, in Manchester. Died: 5 September, 2013 in London, aged 92.

Geoffrey Goodman was a much revered industrial correspondent who wrote in an era when the trades unions wielded much political and industrial power. They were often called in for beer and sandwiches at No10 to discuss industrial affairs. Goodman reported such meetings with a compelling insight.

Industrial relations played a major part in the everyday life and dominated the news. The principal union leaders were household names (Frank Cousins, Jack Jones, Hugh Scanlon etc) and Goodman fostered good relations throughout the movement. He gained their confidence, but was scrupulously balanced in his reporting and provided well-argued and constructive copy.

Goodman was a committed Communist until the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956, when he joined the Labour Party. Goodman remained an ardent socialist and a believer in the trade union movement. As a journalist, he was respected by both sides of industry and politics. He was a man of many talents and high integrity.

Geoffrey Goodman was born into a struggling Jewish family in Stockport and served throughout the war with the Royal Air Force, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant in Bomber Command. He then read economics at the London School of Economics.

On demobilisation, he worked with the Manchester Guardian before going London to join first the Daily Mirror and then the News Chronicle. In 1959 he moved to the Daily Herald – a left-of-centre paper and when, in 1964, it was taken over by the International Publishing Corporation, owners of the Mirror Group, Goodman was offered the post of industrial editor. Goodman remained with the paper for the rest of his professional career apart for two years (1975-76) when, at Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s request, he advised the government on counter-inflationary policy. When he returned to Fleet Street, he wrote a weekly column that gained enormous influence on the heated industrial problems of the day.

In 1974, he was a member of the Royal Commission on the Press. He wrote a minority report advocating the use of public funds to encourage diversity in the Press.

He documented the Thatcher years and the continuous decline in trade union membership with a sad honesty. Goodman chronicled the government’s policy to reduce trade union power and to reduce employees’ statutory rights. Reporting the year-long miners’ strike was a personal agony for him.

Goodman had built up strong industrial relationships with the union leaders in Scotland and had reported incisively on the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders occupation and work-in of 1971-72. He much admired Jimmy Reid, the charismatic leader of the work-in.

On Reid’s death, Goodman wrote eloquently of his contribution to industrial life in Scotland. “Everything Jimmy touched was briefly turned to gold. We worked briefly together when Robert Maxwell tried to persuade him to become a regular columnist on the Daily Mirror, but he found working with Maxwell impossible. Jimmy was a revolutionary.”

Indeed, many were surprised when Goodman accepted the “Maxwell shilling” after he had bought the Mirror in 1984. Goodman was not afraid of the imposing Cap’n Bob and there were many fearsome discussions about the wording of his column. One almighty row occurred when Maxwell altered an article without reference during the miners’ strike.

A furious Goodman – who had just been named journalist of the year – threatened to resign on the spot unless he was given a personal undertaking by the proprietor that it would never happen again.

In 1986, he retired and became a familiar figure on radio and television. He wrote a biography of Frank Cousins and contributed to Tribune.

One article typified Goodman’s perceptive ability to write with an informed authority – albeit speculatively. In 1994, he wondered what sort of prime minister John Smith (former Labour leader and MP for North Lanarkshire) would have made. “My own view is that the Scottish Presbyterian lawyer would have made a first-class prime minister, possibly in the mould of Clement Attlee. I also think that John Smith’s wonderful impish sense of humour would have been of greater advantage to a Labour cabinet than was Attlee’s somewhat sardonic aloofness. But we will never know.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown spoke warmly of Goodman yesterday: “Geoffrey was a great writer, a good friend and a wonderfully humane person with a burning lifelong passion for justice.”

Goodman was often to be seen lunching at The Gay Hussar in London’s Soho. It is much frequented by left-wing journalists and suitably Goodman and his wife held a joint 180th birthday party there in 2011.

Goodman, who was appointed CBE in 1998, was a life-long supporter of Tottenham Hotspur and listed in Who’s Who his recreations as “climbing – but not social”. He married his Czech-born wife Margit in 1947. She and their son and daughter survive him.