Geoffrey Goodman CBE: Daily Mirror journalist’s godfather of industrial reporters dies aged 91
06 September 2013 06:26 PM By Kevin Maguire
He was a staunch trade unionist, lifelong socialist, fantastic journalist and the most decent, generous, wise man you could ever hope to meet
Mirrorman: Geoffrey Goodman in 2009
Tributes were paid today to Geoffrey Goodman, the veteran Daily Mirror journalist, who has died aged 91.
Goodman was one of the Britain’s most respected newsmen, earning huge respect for his coverage of the turbulent industrial and political upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s.
He was a staunch trade unionist, lifelong socialist, fantastic journalist and the most decent, generous, wise man you could ever hope to meet.
I grew up reading his Mirror columns about the battles for higher pay and better jobs, inspired by the persuasive voice he gave working people ignored or belittled by much of the media.
Later I was privileged to get to know the warm, humane figure greatly admired by the people he wrote for as well as those chronicled was an extraordinary person.
Often over lunch in the Gay Hussar, a famous Leftish restaurant in London’s Soho where Goodman was at home.
He and wife Margit, who arrived in Britain on the last Kindertransport train bringing Jewish children to safety before Hitler occupied the European mainland and unleashed the horror of the Holocaust, held a joint 180th birthday in the renowned eaterie.
The great and the good of the labour movement paid homage to Geoffrey, including Neil Kinnock and ex No 10 spinner Alastair Campbell.
Goodman was a generous man and devoted much of his speech to lionising a blushing Labour MP Tom Watson for his exposure of Australian-American tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s racket.
And today Neil and Glenys Kinnock released a statement in tribute to their friend.
They said: “Throughout his long life, Geoffrey Goodman always lived up to his name.
“He was the warm, strong soul of socialism – gentle and generous in spirit and deed, resolute and dedicated in his beliefs and his work.
“He was a friend and comrade to value – and a great source of stories and fun.
“Geoff was an unsurpassed professional as a journalist, trusted throughout the Labour and Trade Union Movement and respected even by his enemies.
“He was brave in war and in peace, and he never failed to stand up for justice and freedom.
“We will miss him greatly and we send our deepest sympathy to his beloved Margit and their family.”
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also recalled him, saying: “Geoffrey was a great writer, a good friend and a wonderfully humane person with a burning lifelong passion for justice.
“He never stopped believing that we should work together for a better world.”
Honoured: Geoffrey pictured in 1976
And Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband said: “I’m sad to hear of the death of Geoffrey Goodman.
“Geoffrey was one of the leading political and industrial journalists of his generation, an impressive biographer, writer and a true public servant in his almost 20 years at the Mirror.
“I send my and the whole Labour Party’s condolences to Geoffrey’s family.
“He will be remembered with great affection and missed by his friends, family, former colleagues and all those who knew him, as well as everyone who read and enjoyed his work.”
Peter Willis, the Mirror’s weekday editor, said: “Geoffrey Goodman was a giant among journalists and one of the greatest ever Mirrormen.
“Geoffrey was unsurpassed at getting to the heart of the major industrial and political issues when the country was experiencing massive upheaval.
“He was hugely respected by his peers, those in the corridors of power and, most importantly, our readers, to whom he spoke with passion, wisdom and integrity.
“His tremendous contribution to our profession were justly recognised with a CBE.”
Born into a family struggling to stay afloat financially after his dad lost a job in a cardboard box factory, the wartime RAF Flight Lieutenant in Bomber Command was to became a confidante of socialist hero and NHS creator Nye Bevan.
He was a close friend of Michael Foot, devastated when the onetime Labour leader passed away.
Harold Wilson persuaded Goodman to put the top on his pen to spend a spell as an adviser in Downing Street’s anti-inflation unit and a peerage was there for the taking.
But Goodman was loyal to journalism and the Daily Mirror, returning to the paper until retirement as an Assistant Editor in 1986 after the agony of the year-long miners’s strike.
As Industrial Editor of a paper he joined in 1969 following spells on, among other titles, the Daily Herald and Manchester Guardian, both sides in titanic disputes trusted Goodman.
With accuracy and passion, he explained why disputes happened when others automatically pilloried workers and gave bad bosses a free ride.
Award winner: Geoffrey handed a trophy by Norman Tebbitt in 1985
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This is very sad news. Geoffrey was the greatest industrial journalist of his generation, a fine biographer and wise counsel to succeeding generations of TUC leaders. He will be missed by many not just for his wisdom but as what his generation would have called a proper gent.”
Brendan Barber, O’Grady’s predecessor at the TUC, said: “Geoffrey was always a loyal and generous friend to me personally and a source of wise counsel.”
Ray Collins, a former Labour Party general secretary, called Goodman “a journalist of compassion and integrity who always ensured the voice of the working class was heard.”
Labour MP Peter Hain, an ex-Cabinet Minister, hailed a “socialist, journalist of high quality, decency and integrity”, recognising Goodman’s love of the Labour magazine Tribune which was his second home after the Mirror.
Owen Smith, a member of Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet, paid tribute to “a great journalist and a great man of the left who kept Nye’s flame burning.”
ITV presenter Alastair Stewart dubbed Goodman the “the God-father of industrial editors/correspondents” when union leaders were viewed as titans, the deceased Mirrorman a “generous Master to aspirants” like himself thrust into the maelstrom of strike reporting.
The BBC’s Andrew Marr once described Goodman as “one of the great gents of post-war British journalism”.
That few in a fractious Fleet Street would demur underlined the reverence in which Goodman was held.
Goodman, a non-religious Jew, was born in Stockport in July 1922 but added a year to his age in the war so he could join the RAF.
He stuck with that throughout his life, meaning he celebrated landmarks – such as his 90th birthday – a year early.
His family moved to London when his dad lost the cardboard box job so he could be a door to door salesman flogging cleaning goods before joining the civil service.
In “From Bevan to Blair”, a journalistic memoir, Goodman recalled the grinding poverty and slum housing of the era.
The family would watch in horror as the grubby wallpaper moved as if it was alive, insects crawling between the wall and the covering.
During the Second World War he was a Flight Lieutenant flying Wellingtons, Whitleys and Lancasters before moving to Mosquito planes in photographic reconnaissance to identify Nazi targets.
Goodman acknowledged he was fortunate to survive, two-in-every-five RAF crewmen in Bomber Command – 55,573 men – killed over Germany.
His eyes would drop, the voice lower when he recalled good comrades who never made it back.
But like many of his generation who faced extraordinary dangers, he rarely talked publicly about his exploits.
One story told about Flt Lt Goodman had him retuning to Britain when a Messerschmitt was spotted on the horizon.
He calculated they could out-run the fighter and was astonished when it suddenly caught up with them.
Committed: Geoffrey (second from left) and Mirror journalists Alex Collinson (far left) Alan Shillum (second from right) and Geoff Ross (far right) speak to miners
The aircraft was in fact a German new jet and scared the living daylights out of Goodman and his men, although they of course survived.
The socialist, who from experience and conviction recognised working people needed to unite to better their lives, undoubtedly enjoyed the camaraderie forged between people of all backgrounds fighting Hitler.
Nor did he accept criticism of the RAF chief behind attacks on German cities, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, who was called a war criminal and worse.
Goodman was appalled by jeering protesters when he attended a service 20-odd years ago at St Clement Danes, the RAF church in central London, where the Queen unveiled a statue to Harris.
He was thrilled at the more recent monument to Bomber Command on the edge of the capital’s Hyde Park.
Many flyers in the RAF, he argued, were socialists fighting Hitler’s fascism.
Harris made mistakes, he accepted, but it was a war Britain had to win and carpet bombing was part of the plan.
After Hitler’s defeat, Goodman was posted to an airfield near Hamburg. He’d spend Sunday afternoons walking through devastated German cities.
The carnage was, he conceded, too great to rationalise. Had he seen mutilated bodies, Goodman knew he might have felt a terrible twist of conscience.
The dad-of-two was a card carrying Communist until the invasion of Hungary in 1956 persuaded him to join the Labour Party.
A non-religious Jew, he studied economics at the London School of Economics.
One of his slight regrets in later life was not becoming a Labour MP, a seat in Leicester dangled before a scribbler who stuck with journalism.
Goodman would famously muse “What would Nye do?” when considering answers to political problems, wondering what Bevan would have decided.
During a lunch in the Gay Hussar in early summer, Goodman’s take on British politics was as penetrative as you’d read or hear anywhere.
RIP Geoffrey Goodman, a modest man who had nothing to be modest about.
He was a model for generations: By Paul Routledge
Geoffrey was the best kind of journalist, devoted to getting the story and telling readers what was going on in the world of industry, politics and government.
But he was also a doughty fighter for working people and a true friend of the trade union movement with an unrivalled set of contacts.
He was a model for generations of industrial correspondents – like me – who grew up in Fleet Street under his very considerable shadow.
Geoffrey’s passing breaks one of the last links with the post-war heyday of Attlee, Nye Bevan and Ernie Bevin.
He knew them all and they respected him. And so did we.
Our finest: The Voice of The Mirror
Daily Mirror veteran Geoffrey Goodman combined humanity with the soundest judgment to be one of the finest journalists of his or any other generation.
A bright light went out in the country with the passing of an extraordinary man who was the personification of so much that was good.