Helen Goodman

Helen Catherine Goodman[1] (born 2 January 1958) is a former British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland between 2005 and 2019. Since 2020 she has been an associate Fellow at Durham University and a member of the advisory board of Durham Energy Institute - working with them on geothermal research. During a Parliamentary career spanning 14 years, she held a number of ministerial and shadow ministerial roles, including Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Work and Pensions until 2010 with responsibility for child poverty and childcare and shadow Minister for the Americas and the Far East.[2]

Helen Goodman
Goodman in 2017
Shadow Minister for Americas, Far East and Overseas Territories
In office
6 July 2017  12 December 2019
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byCatherine West
Succeeded byLloyd Russell-Moyle
Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform
In office
3 December 2014  15 September 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byChris Bryant
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Shadow Minister for Culture and Media
In office
7 October 2011  3 December 2014
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byGloria De Piero
Succeeded byChris Bryant
Shadow Minister for Prisons
In office
7 October 2010  7 October 2011
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byHelen Jones
Succeeded byJenny Chapman
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
9 June 2009  11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byKitty Ussher
Succeeded byMaria Miller
Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
In office
28 June 2007  9 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
LeaderHarriet Harman
Preceded byPaddy Tipping
Succeeded byChris Bryant
Member of Parliament
for Bishop Auckland
In office
5 May 2005  6 November 2019
Preceded byDerek Foster
Succeeded byDehenna Davison
Personal details
Helen Catherine Goodman

(1958-01-02) 2 January 1958 (age 63)
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Charles Seaford
Alma materSomerville College, Oxford
WebsiteOfficial website

Early life and Education

Goodman's mother was a Danish immigrant and her father was an architect. Born in Nottingham, she grew up in Derbyshire and was educated at her village school and Lady Manners School, Bakewell, Derbyshire, which at the time was a Grammar School. She studied PPE at Somerville College, Oxford.[3]

Career before Parliament

Upon graduating from the University of Oxford, she worked as a researcher for the Labour MP Phillip Whitehead. She worked in HM Treasury as a fast stream administrator holding many posts including on the Energy Desk, the Exchange Rate Desk, Central Budget Unit, Overseas Finance. In 1990–91, she was seconded to the Office of the Czechoslovak Prime Minister to advise on their economic transition after the Velvet Revolution.

In 1992, she negotiated an agreement within the OECD to end government subsidies on arms exports to highly indebted countries. This was in the wake of the Scott inquiry into the first Iraq war.

Goodman also oversaw the establishment of the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme in 1990, the first major Government programme to tackle energy efficiency and fuel poverty.

From 1997, she was the director of the Commission on the Future for MultiEthnic Britain (sponsored by the Runnymede Trust). She was appointed the Head of Strategy at The Children's Society in 1998, where she was involved in lobbying on policies to cut child poverty. From 2002 until her election to the House of Commons, she was Chief Executive of the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries which supported 1,000 projects across Great Britain. She is a member of the GMB Union and the Christian Socialist Movement, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth. She has published numerous articles including in the Political Quarterly and Foreign Policy Centre.

Parliamentary career

Goodman was selected as the Labour Party candidate for the County Durham seat of Bishop Auckland at the 2005 general election through an All-Women Shortlist, following the retirement of the veteran Labour MP Derek Foster. Goodman held the seat with a majority of 10,047 votes and made her maiden speech in the Commons on 25 May 2005.[4] She was re-elected in 2010, 2015 and 2017 but with dwindling majorities of 5218, 3508 and 502 respectively. In 2019 Goodman lost the seat to the Conservative candidate Dehenna Davison whose majority was 7962.

She was a member of the Public Accounts Committee from May 2005 to April 2007 before becoming a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Ministry of Justice. In June 2007, she was appointed Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, before being made a whip in October 2008. She left this role in June 2009 to become a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. In this role, she steered the Child Poverty Act onto the statute book, alongside Stephen Timms.[citation needed]

After the 2010 general election, Goodman nominated Ed Miliband for the leadership of the Labour Party. After his election as party leader, she was appointed as opposition spokesman in Labour's Justice team with special responsibility for Prisons and Sentencing policy. In October 2011, she became Shadow Minister for Media. In this role she has campaigned for better child protection online. In October 2013, she was also given responsibility for Labour's Arts policy.[5]

In 2010, she ran a successful campaign in conjunction with The Northern Echo to save the Zurbarán paintings at Auckland Castle when the Commissioners of the Church of England threatened to sell them. In February 2013, appalled at the impact of the "bedroom tax" on her constituents, she tried to live for a week on £18.[6]

In 2011, Helen led Labour's response to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.[7]

On 3 December 2014, she became Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform as part of a small Shadow Cabinet reshuffle by Ed Miliband.[8] Since February 2016, Goodman has also served as a member of the Advisory Board at Polar Research and Policy Initiative.[9]

From 9 June 2016 to 12 June 2016 she attended the 64th annual Bilderberg Conference in Dresden, Germany.[10]

Goodman supported Remain in the June 2016 EU referendum campaign, and during the December 2019 General Election was endorsed by the People's Vote Campaign.[11]

In 2017, she took part in a campaign to save the DWP office in Bishop Auckland from closure. She raised questions in Parliament regarding the proposed office closure and took part in a match and Rally opposing the closure on 18 March 2017 [12]

In July 2017, Goodman was appointed as a junior spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, with responsibility for the Americas and the Far East.[13] In May 2018, she successfully led Labour's attempt to secure Magnitsky Clauses in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill during its Committee Stage and was instrumental in a cross-party initiative that secured an amendment to the Bill requiring public registers of beneficial ownership in the Overseas Territories.[14] Other work included developing Labour's policy on the crisis in Hong Kong in 2019, visiting Colombia in May 2019 to meet various stakeholders involved in the implementation of Colombia's faltering peace process and frequently pressing the UK Government to act on a number of human rights issues including the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, the Rohingya refugee crisis and the rights of West Papuans.[15][16][17]

Alongside veteran MP Ken Clarke, Goodman first developed the concept of holding indicative votes in Parliament to resolve the Brexit deadlock.[18] In March 2019, during the indicative votes held by MPs to decide which version of Brexit that they supported, Goodman again worked closely with Ken Clarke to secure support for the option to remain with the EU Customs Union.[19] The Customs Union option came closest to securing an overall majority out of all the other options, falling three votes short.[20]

In October 2019, Goodman was again selected by her local party as Bishop Auckland constituency's Parliamentary Labour candidate. During the December 2019 General Election, Bishop Auckland was one of the 59 constituencies lost by the Labour Party.

In 2021 local elections, Goodman stood as a counciller for West Auckland ward [21] where she was beaten in to fourth place by Conservative candidates Mark Roberts and Declan Gilroy and Labour candidate Rob Yorke.[22]

2009 expenses scandal

In May 2009, The Daily Telegraph revealed that Goodman had claimed £519.31 for use of a cottage in her own constituency on her expenses, and had submitted hotel bills dated two months prior to being elected to the House of Commons.[23] Goodman argued that she was carrying out Parliamentary business when using the cottage and thus her claim was accepted, and the claim for the hotel stay – which was rejected – was a mistake.[23]

She also claimed a £600 fee for advice from her management consultant husband.[24] Goodman pointed out that the independent inquiry by Thomas Legg into MPs expenses had given her "an entirely clean bill of health and concluded that none of my claims required further explanation or clarification.”[24]

Ingleton speech controversy

Goodman in the House of Commons, March 2016

In June 2014, Goodman was invited to give a speech at the opening of a village fayre at Ingleton, County Durham, in the parliamentary constituency which she had represented for nine years.[25]

During her speech, she praised the village for the beauty of its waterfalls and caves and for its connection with the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. None of these features applied to the County Durham village, but were, in fact, references to the village of Ingleton, situated seventy miles away in North Yorkshire.[26] The speech reportedly "baffled" the audience and after five minutes she was called away from the microphone and informed of her mistake.[25]

Personal life

Goodman is married to Charles Seaford,[24] a Senior Fellow at Demos.[27] The couple have two children.


  1. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-06-15/debates/B209E6D3-68DB-41CD-8D5E-3CEA23EEC8BF/MembersSworn
  2. "Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman MP joins Corbyn's front bench". ITV News. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  3. Will Metcalfe (10 March 2015). "Election 2015: Bishop Auckland constituency and candidates – all you need to know". Chronicle Live. Archived from the original on 26 August 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  4. Goodman's maiden speech Archived 16 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, publications.parliament.uk; accessed 11 December 2015.
  5. Goodman, Helen (15 April 2014). "Stolen art cannot be brushed over, so sign the UK up to the Hague convention | Helen Goodman". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  6. Goodman, Helen (5 March 2013). "Trying to live on £18 a week showed the unfairness of the bedroom tax". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 11 September 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  7. "Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill: 12 Jul 2011: Public Bill Committees". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  8. Helen Goodman named as Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform by Miliband Archived 9 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, bbc.co.uk; accessed 12 December 2015.
  9. "Helen Goodman MP – The Polar Connection". Archived from the original on 22 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  10. "Participants | Bilderberg Meetings". www.bilderbergmeetings.org. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  11. "Bishop Auckland Campaigning 23 November". People's Vote. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  12. Christon, Stacey-Lee (18 March 2017). "March to save scores of jobs at Bishop Auckland offices". The Northern Echo. Newsquest Ltd. Archived from the original on 18 March 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  13. "Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman MP joins Corbyn's front bench | Tyne Tees – ITV News". Itv.com. 6 July 2017. Archived from the original on 26 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  14. "The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill 2017–19" (PDF).
  15. "Human Rights: Xinjiang – Hansard". hansard.parliament.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  16. "Rohingya Refugee Crisis – Hansard". hansard.parliament.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  17. "West Papua: Human Rights – Hansard". hansard.parliament.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  18. Helen Goodman, Ken Clarke and (25 March 2019). "How a knockout contest for Brexit options can break this shameful deadlock". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  19. @HelenGoodmanMP (27 March 2019). "Very pleased to have been third name on this CU motion tonight" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  20. "Mr Clarke's motion C (Customs Union) – Commons' votes in Parliament – UK Parliament". votes.parliament.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  21. Paul, Martin (13 January 2021). "Former MP plots comeback as a Durham county councillor". Teesdale Mercury. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  22. https://www.durham.gov.uk/countyelectionresults2021#West%20Auckland
  23. Allen, Nick (19 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: Helen Goodman claimed £500 for stay in holiday cottage in her constituency". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  24. Swaine, Jon (12 December 2015). "MPs' expenses: Helen Goodman claimed £600 for husband's office advice". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  25. Duggan, Oliver (23 June 2014). "Labour MP hails beautiful waterfalls of Ingleton – in the wrong village". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  26. Jonathan Brown (16 June 2014). "Shadow Labour Minister Helen Goodman red-faced after confusing Ingleton, County Durham and Ingleton, North Yorks". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  27. "Charles Seaford". Demos. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2019.