Dominick Harrod: Unflappable economics correspondent for BBC television and radio
His analyses of economic trends always took into account other events, such as the Vietnam War
Friday 09 August 2013
Dominick Harrod was a respected broadcaster, journalist and author. As BBC economics correspondent on television in the 1970s, and later as a stalwart of the Today programme on radio, his confident presentation of financial and economic matters brought clarity to those who read or listened to him; and his wide experience in meeting and interviewing political leaders and high-ranking civil servants gave him a special authority.
He was born in 1940, the second son of two exceptional parents. His father was R F Harrod (later Sir Roy Harrod), the Oxford economist who worked with John Maynard Keynes, and his mother, born Wilhelmine Cresswell, was a leading light in the preservation of buildings and landscapes.
He attended the Dragon School in Oxford (at the time an agreeably eccentric but academically formidable institution) and Westminster School (where his father had been a pupil), winning a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics. At Oxford he had a lively social life, coxed the Christ Church eight, and was involved with university dramatics.
On leaving Oxford he joined the Sunday Telegraph, working at first on the Albany column, which, under its creator Kenneth Rose, published well-informed gossip about leading members of the establishment. Harrod’s analytic abilities were soon recognised and he was moved to the City office, remaining there until 1966, when he was transferred to the Washington office.
From North America Harrod reported on economic and financial matters with growing skill and confidence, providing considered analyses of economic trends and developments that took into consideration non-economic events such as the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King (he was present at the Chicago riots following the death of Martin Luther King and was struck, but not seriously injured, by a patrolman). Returning to London in 1969, he became the Daily Telegraph’s economics correspondent.
In 1971 he was appointed an economics correspondent by the BBC and began his career as a broadcaster, on television and radio. He was always self-assured and fluent and was respected by politicians and civil servants as reliable and (normally) discreet. His capacity for optimism was valued. On one occasion, Denis Healey, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was being interviewed on the Today programme in their usual combative manner. He was asked, over the matter at hand, “How do you know that’s true, Mr Healey?” – to which he responded, “because Dominick Harrod said it on the news last night”.
Harrod had excellent contacts within the Treasury and was trusted to deal with confidential information. One evening he recorded a piece for the Today programme for the following day that referred to a Treasury document. After the early-morning broadcast, the Treasury telephoned the BBC to complain that the document did not exist. This placed the newsroom in a quandary, since they had intended to air the piece again.
They telephoned Harrod, whose analysis was that Healey had listened to the programme while shaving and had told the Treasury to do something about it. With characteristic brio he suggested that they add a note at the end of the programme saying that the Treasury did not acknowledge the document. Harrod was confident of his facts; nothing further was heard from the government.
One of Harrod’s pleasures was to give the Budget Day broadcast on the Jimmy Young show on Radio 2, in preference to Radio 4. On one occasion, the budget statement was delayed for technical reasons and so the programme became an improvised discussion of budgets since the time of Palmerston. The conversation eventually ground to a halt and Young asked “What should we do now, Dominick?”. His Radio 4 colleagues were delighted by Harrod’s reply: “I think you should put on another record”.
Leaving the BBC in 1991, Harrod was for a year the City editor of the Yorkshire Post and for the next four years director of programmes at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, the residential discussion and reconciliation centre founded by the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1996 the death of his wife, the novelist Christina Hobhouse, left an irreparable gap in his life.
After retiring from St George’s House in 1998 he published War, Ice and Piracy (2000), the story of the Arctic explorations of his Victorian relative Samuel Gurney Cresswell. He served as a member of the Council of the Save the Children Fund, became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England. He was also a founding member of the charity the Norfolk Churches Trust, and chairman of the Friends of Morston Church, also in Norfolk, where he had a house. He is survived by a son and grandson, two stepsons and four step-grandchildren.
Dominick Roy Harrod, writer and broadcaster: born Oxford 21 August 1940; married Christina Hobhouse (died 1996; one son, two stepsons); died Norwich 4 August 2013.
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