GOODHART, Sir Philip (1925-2015).



21 March 1957 - 9 April 1992


Sir Philip Goodhart was born in Cambridge, 3 November 1925. He attended school in Connecticut during the Second World War, before joining the army and returning to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, during which time he contested the seat of Consett in 1950. He married Valerie Forbes Winant, with whom he had seven children, and worked as a journalist.

Sir Philip became the Conservative candidate for Beckenham at a 1957 by-election, beating a young Margaret Thatcher. He was elected and retained the seat until his retirement in 1992. He served in his former rival’s government in various junior ministerial posts in Northern Ireland and Defence, and later became Chairman of the 1922 committee. He published several books and passed away in July 2015.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Sir Philip Goodhart in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

I’d always had an interest in the armed forces, which certainly had not been diminished by being in Northern Ireland. So I enjoyed it. Very soon it was made apparent to me that as minister for the army my principle job was to see that we always got much more money than the navy did. In that, I’d like to think, one did ,with considerable success – possibly too much success.

Summary of interview

Interview with Sir Philip Goodhart by Dr Martin Farr, at his home in London on Monday 2 July 2012, 11.00-14.00

00.00.00 Introductions; 00.00.26 earliest memories: childhood in Cambridge; 00.01.00 father: career, memories of, Professor of Law at Oxford; 00.01.43 move from Cambridge to Oxford, memories of each as a child; 00.02.39 Arnold House school in London; 00.03.40 Dragon School Oxford, bullying; 00.05.07 father’s roots in Holland, Goodhart Political Party, with nine MPs, including Franz Goodhart later at the Western European Union; 00.07.06 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; 00.09.50 influence of parents on PG’s politics; 00.11.30 religion and family, father non-observant Jew; 00.12.40 Second World War, memories and involvement, time in the US, Kings Royal Rifle Corps (only British regiment raised in the US); 00.15.20 importance of the American alliance then and subsequently; 00.16.30 experiences in uniform; 00.17.50 1945 election, for rankers “move to the left in threes, left turn!”, but officers less happy; 00.19.25 Parachute Regiment and Palestine 1946, and reluctance to attend: wanted to shoot “Japs and Germans”, not Jews; 00.21.20 injured by flying bomb, so missed wartime combat; 00.22.13 HQ First Parachute Brigade, PG politicised in Palestine; 00.23.25 “totally opposed” to Bevin’s policy on Palestine; 00.24.00 would have shot Yitzhak Shamir “without any compunction at all”; 00.24.30 demobilisation; went up to Trinity College Cambridge, experiences (“partying, journalism, politics”); 00.26.25 decision to become a journalist, school and university journalism, editor of Varsity; 00.29.30 Cambridge University Conservative Association and study groups; Conservative Research Department; 00.30.30 offered candidacy for Consett in 1950 election; the only candidate, so selected; 00.31.40 influential lecturers at Cambridge; 00.32.40 friends and acquaintances: Robin Chichester Clark an Ulster Unionist who triggered PG’s interest in Northern Ireland, also David Price, David Hearst; 00.34.00 student politics; 00.34.00 political career “came as a complete surprised, it had never occurred to me”; 00.36.00 1950 general election “no hope whatsoever of winning … entirely defensive …very friendly …campaign”; 00.39.00 being a candidate “was like getting a commission in the army”; 00.40.30 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; 00.42.15 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; 00.46.30 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; 00.50.00 “perfect seat”: description of Beckenham, contrast with Consett; comments on Consett’s de-industrialisation; 00.51.50 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; 00.55.35 “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”; 00.57.20 relations with local association and national party “very little: we didn’t need any help”, and no change over 35 years; 00.58.35 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