Goodman, Arnold Abraham, Lord

views updated


GOODMAN, ARNOLD ABRAHAM, LORD (1913–1995), British lawyer and legal advisor. Goodman was born in London to middle-class, middle-of-the-road Orthodox parents and had a brilliant career at Cambridge and in his law studies. He was created a Life Peer in 1965. Lord Goodman was personal legal advisor to many leaders of Britain's three political parties – in itself a unique position. He first came to public prominence in 1967 when the Labour government called on him to arbitrate and settle a serious strike of television workers. He was successful, and from that point forward, both the Labour and subsequent Conservative administrations used his services as unofficial envoy in a number of industrial disputes as well as in Britain's constitutional dispute with Rhodesia. He was so successful in gaining the confidence of the workers in the newspaper industry that the powerful Newspaper Proprietors' Association made him its chairman. He held many other public and semipublic offices, the most important of which was chairman of the semiofficial Arts Council (1965–72), which encourages all the arts, including literature, and disburses official funds to theaters, etc. He was also a member of a number of royal commissions and committees of enquiry, and prochancellor of Warwick University. Until 1986, he was Master, University College, Oxford. He also spoke on behalf of Jewish charities and without being a formal Zionist showed active sympathy toward Israel. In 1973, he was appointed chairman of the Housing Corporation and the National Building Agency, both government bodies. His autobiography, Tell Them I'm on My Way, appeared in 1993.

Goodman was one of the most famous eminences grises in postwar Britain. Like all men credited with backstairs influence, his powers were often exaggerated. Nevertheless, Goodman met, on a weekly, confidential basis, with Harold Wilson during his 1964–70 term as prime minister, sharing many secrets with him. Wilson greatly valued Goodman's advice, and used him as a sounding board for proposed actions. From 1993, Goodman's life was overshadowed by a lawsuit brought against him by the Portman family, London landowners, who claimed that he had siphoned off funds from their family trust. After Goodman's death, his law firm paid the Portmans £500,000 without any admission of guilt.


Not for the Record (selected speeches and writings by Lord Goodman:, 1972). add. bibliography: odnb online; B. Brivati, Lord Goodman (1999); D. Selbourne, Not an Englishman: Conversations With Lord Goodman (1993).

[Michael Wallach /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]