Sir Victor Goodhew

Right-wing St Albans MP


Victor Henry Goodhew, politician: born 30 November 1919; MP (Conservative) for St Albans 1959-83; Assistant Government Whip 1970; Lord Commissioner, HM Treasury 1970-73; Kt 1982; Chairman, Board of Management, Institute of Sports Medicine 1982-2006; married 1940 Sylvia Johnson (one son, and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved), 1951 Suzanne Gordon-Burge (marriage dissolved 1972), 1972 Eva Rittinghausen (marriage dissolved 1981); died Ascot, Berkshire 11 October 2006.

Victor Goodhew served as the Conservative MP for St Albans from 1959 until 1983 and was made a whip by Edward Heath. To some extent this was a case of poacher turned gamekeeper.

Goodhew had been active in the group of Conservative backbenchers that had opposed the line the party took over Southern Rhodesia in the 1964-66 parliament and had called for talks with Ian Smith soon after the 1966 election. He continued to oppose sanctions on the Smith regime after leaving office even when they were continued by Margaret Thatcher's government.

His opposition to government policies on southern Africa dated back to his earliest years in Parliament when he was highly critical of Iain Macleod's constitutional proposals for Northern Rhodesia and an early recruit to the Monday Club, formed to combat the influence of the Bow Group on the Government's African policies, but soon colonised by Conservative parliamentary opponents of those policies.

An active member of the Conservative backbench defence committee, Goodhew served as one of its vice-chairmen from 1964 to 1970 and again in 1974-83; in the late 1970s he served briefly as an opposition defence spokesman, but was not included in Thatcher's government.

From 1979 until 1983 he acted as joint Secretary of the 1922 Committee. He was also a member of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen from 1975 until his retirement from the Commons in 1983, and in that capacity had the unenviable task more than once of exercising his vote, quite properly, in favour of the Labour government when votes were tied on the controversial Health Service Bill.

A consistent right-winger, Goodhew was always prepared to take on his own government when he felt that it was acting contrary to the national interest. He was not only privately critical of John Nott's Defence Review in 1981, but spoke out against it when Nott's junior minister, Keith Speed, resigned in protest at its impact on the Royal Navy. Subsequently, during the Falklands crisis, he was one of the hawks urging the Government to bomb air bases in the Argentine.

Goodhew was also loyal to his friends. When The Times published an editorial highly critical of Enoch Powell on 15 June 1970, he was one of those who came to Powell's defence, describing him as "one of the most misreported and abused men in politics".

He would have counted himself a staunch advocate of multiracialism in Africa and a defender of human rights, but he was adamant that there could be no double standards in such matters. He regarded the break-up of the Central African Federation as a tragedy and said so. The tides of history would seem to have made his views outmoded, but they were honourably held; and he, no doubt, would have maintained that the jury was still out.

Born in 1919, Goodhew was educated at King's College School and served with the RAF in the Second World War. He commanded the Airborne Radar Unit attached to the 6th Airborne Division, reaching the rank of squadron leader. Demobilised in 1946, he was active in the catering industry, but was speedily engaged in politics. He served on Westminster City Council, contested Paddington North in the 1955 general election (losing by just over 2,000 votes) and was elected to the London County Council in 1958.

Elected to Parliament in 1959, he was chosen in 1962 as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty and in 1963-64 acted as PPS to Thomas Galbraith, the junior minister for Transport. Heath made him an assistant whip in 1970 and promoted him within the Whips Office to be a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury little more than three months later. He resigned in 1973.

A keen sailor, skier and, later, swimmer, Goodhew became Chairman of the Board of Management of the Institute of Sports Medicine in 1982, the year he was knighted.

John Barnes

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