Goodhart, Philip (1 of 1). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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Interviewee’s home, London
Goodhart, Philip, 1925-2015 (speaker, male)
Farr, Martin, 1971- (speaker, male)
Part 1: Introductions; [00:26] earliest memories: childhood in Cambridge; [[01.00] father: career, memories of, Professor of Law at Oxford; [01.43] move from Cambridge to Oxford, memories of each as a child; [02.39] Arnold House school in London; [03.40] Dragon School Oxford, bullying; [05.07] father’s roots in Holland, Goodhart Political Party, with nine MPs, including Franz Goodhart later at the Western European Union; [07.06] grandfather decided that son Arthur should learn about economics before joining the family firm, and so went to Cambridge in 1912, Keynes “unsound” so father chose law; [09.50] influence of parents on PG’s politics; [11.30] religion and family, father non-observant Jew; [12.40] Second World War, memories and involvement, time in the US, Kings Royal Rifle Corps (only British regiment raised in the US); [15.20] importance of the American alliance then and subsequently; [16.30] experiences in uniform; [17.50] 1945 election, for rankers “move to the left in threes, left turn!”, but officers less happy; [19.25] Parachute Regiment and Palestine 1946, and reluctance to attend: wanted to shoot “Japs and Germans”, not Jews; [21.20] injured by flying bomb, so missed wartime combat; [22.13] HQ First Parachute Brigade, PG politicised in Palestine; [23.25] “totally opposed” to Bevin’s policy on Palestine; [24.00] would have shot Yitzhak Shamir “without any compunction at all”; [24.30] demobilisation; went up to Trinity College Cambridge, experiences (“partying, journalism, politics”); [26.25] decision to become a journalist, school and university journalism, editor of Varsity; [29.30] Cambridge University Conservative Association and study groups; Conservative Research Department; [30.30] offered candidacy for Consett in 1950 election; the only candidate, so selected; [31.40] influential lecturers at Cambridge; [32.40] friends and acquaintances: Robin Chichester Clark an Ulster Unionist who triggered PG’s interest in Northern Ireland, also David Price, David Hearst; [34.00] student politics; [34.00] political career “came as a complete surprised, it had never occurred to me”; [36.00] 1950 general election “no hope whatsoever of winning … entirely defensive …very friendly …campaign”; [39.00] being a candidate “was like getting a commission in the army”; [40.30] period between first campaign and election to Parliament, joined Daily Telegraph, and a “heavyweight political gossip column”, ‘Peterborough’, and Bill Deedes; covered 1952 US presidential election, worked in East Africa; [42.15] 1956 PG was on the Sunday Times, and had written a series of articles on Mau Mau and then Cyprus, then Israel, which coincided with the Suez crisis; at Ledra Palace Hotel, ex-Paras invited him to join them, but his story was spiked, and he expected to be sacked, but told by editor to become an MP; [46.30] several by-elections after Eden’s resignation. PG runner up in Eden’s seat, with garnered some publicity, and Beckenham constituency Conservatives got in touch. “A golden moment” because everyone was interested in Suez I could do five minutes on ‘I was there’ … proved to be a winner”; Margaret Thatcher also a candidate and “gave a much better speech than me”, but first question to her “Mrs Thatcher you have two year old twins how can you possibly bring them up properly and be an energetic representative for Beckenham? Collapse of Maggie”. Thatcher does not refer to this in her memoirs; [50.00] “perfect seat”: description of Beckenham, contrast with Consett; comments on Consett’s de-industrialisation; [51.50] issues in Beckenham; “issues were interesting rather than urgent”, never a major division with the constituency party in 35 years, nor fear of not winning an election, though an assiduous canvasser, six days a week throughout the campaign; [55.35] “almost no contact with my predecessor” MP Patrick Buchan Hepburn, who was the only RAB Butler supporter in the cabinet when Harold Macmillan became PM, which was why he stood down – “the myth”; [57.20 relations with local association and national party “very little: we didn’t need any help”, and no change over 35 years; [58.35] constituency party “it could hardly have been better”, few factional disputes or issues; [01.01.00] no pressure on any issue as an MP from a constituency party – “no problems”, even over fall of Heath in 1974 or Thatcher in 1990, never asked how he voted [PG had turned against Thatcher and the Poll Tax by 1990]; [01.04.55] financing of campaigns “wasn’t really an issue”; [01.06.30] first impressions of the House of Commons “I felt quite at home” having got used to it as a journalist; [01.07.30] changes in the Commons over 35 years. Intrusions of the media most significant development, and TV became “vastly more important”, but not to the detriment of the process, just that it changed it. Supported televising of parliament; [01.09.03] relations with Labour MPs; [01.07.00] social life of the Commons “mattered a great deal”; [01.11.15] time in the chamber of the Commons, stars of the Commons, “I cannot think of any debates in the 35 years that I was there where listening to the debate actually changed my vote”; [01.12.11] “stars” being “Nye” [Bevan], “Enoch” [Powell] (“a mile ahead of everybody else” on the Conservative benches; his resignation speech in 1968 in particular standing out); [01.14.00] “I rebelled fairly frequently”. On reflection, should have warned more about immigration; [01.17.15] rebellions, being a backbencher, and ambitions to be a minister, “controversies with Ted Heath”, a political neighbour, but rarely agreed, e.g. consumer protection, Consumers Association; [01.20.10] “distant” relations with Heath, but his Parliamentary Private Secretary was Anthony Kershaw, whose son married PG’s daughter; [01.21.05] main issues as a backbencher: maximum wage rule in football and the “golden strike”; [01.25.00] “greatest interest” common market referendum “bizarre that a single vote in Parliament could dramatically alter the structure and the independence of the country”; [01.26.30] issue of democracy as against the specific policy of Europe and the Beckenham referendum; [01.29.50] expenses scandal 2009; [01.31.30] corruption in parliamentary politics; [01.33.00] means of promoting issues and policies “the pen is mightier than the tongue”; [01.34.20] Devised Red Routes, in response to threat of a relief road for South Circular going through constituency and “Michael” [Cecil] Parkinson, as Secretary of State for Transport receptive; [01.37.40] relations with journalists. Two of closest friends Peregrine Worsthorne, and Colin Welsh; [01.39.23] private life as an MP, not wishing to live in constituency because of “wholesale surveillance”. Such as with successor; salary sufficient even with large family, extra-parliamentary income [01.44.40 secretarial and support staff and Conservative Research Department and Michael Fraser; [01.46.15 effects of political career on family life; [01.49.17] relations with whips “remote”; [01.51.42 unprecedented nineteen years as office of the 1922 Committee; [01.55.15] relations with Labour parliamentarians; [01.58.15] Bow Group, “[I was] probably a member of the Monday club”; [02.01.30] “I’m right-wing on defence … financially I’m fairly far to the left” from a New Deal family; [02.03.00] Thatcherism; PG not sure he would have supported the Falklands if still minister for the army; [02.06.34] ministerial life. Appointment. The telephone call in 1979. “Hoped” to be asked rather than expected. PG more optimistic in 1979 than in 1970; [02.09.00] Northern Ireland Office, PG links with Ulster Unionists; [02.10.50] family security and Northern Ireland. Four-man bodyguard; [02.11.54] impressions of the civil service. “Particularly good civil service team” in the Northern Ireland Office and no friction; [02.13.36] move from Northern Ireland to Ministry of Defence. Had done two years there and always had in an interest in the armed forces. “Made apparent to me that as minister for the arm my principal job was to see that we always got more money than the navy did” to effective hence the Falklands; [02.16.40] British defence policy problems and contradictions of, UAVs; [02.19.20] end of ministerial career due to a “personal problem with Maggie ... I’d rather not talk about it”; [02.20.10] being a minister compared to being a backbencher: “I’m very glad I did it” but never had “enormous ambition”; [02.22.50] accountability as a minister to Parliament; [02.28.00] decision to stand down from Parliament in 1992. “I was getting very old”. No pressure, free decision, and ’92 Parliament a good one to miss; [02.29.20] adjusting to life after Parliament easy: too old to do anything else; [02.33.40] Didn’t expect a peerage “under the circumstances” of being “vehemently against the poll tax”, but would have liked one; [02.35.20] Privy Council: “I’m sort of faintly irritated that I’m not the Rt. Hon Sir Philip”; [02.37.00] Never kept a diary but wrote a weekly article for the Beckenham Journal, “which was a very good method of communication”. Political papers went to the Bodleian. Currently trying to write a memoir, more for family than public. Has difficulty physically writing now, and dependant on secretary; [02.42.50] Does not recall Andrew Roth’s claim in Parliamentary Profiles that PG advocated a sex offenders’ register in November 1957; [02.45.21] Omissions of ‘recreations’ from Who’s Who entry; [02.47.10] “fairly lazy person” and the bursts of activity that mark political life meant he was therefore well suited to parliamentary life; [02.48.00] successor MPs in Beckenham: errors of Piers Merchant and Jacqui Lait, competence of Bob Stewart. Quarrels with Jacqui Lait who immediately got rid of PG’s agent in 1992; [02.52.00] tricks to avoid remembering people’s names; [02.54.00] on reflection PG feels no real connection with party or constituency because of the turnover of people, thoughts on Bob Stewart MP; [02.58.45] 1990 leadership election vote, voted Michael Heseltine “but we separated, as it were, on Europe”, Conservative MPs “we were fairly unused to democracy in those days”; [03.02.55] Regrets? “No, not all that many. I won’t say that that it was always enjoyable, but it was always interesting.”
Life story interview with Sir Philip Goodhart (1925-2015), former Conservative Member of Parliament.