Helen Goodman

Helen Catherine Goodman (born 2 January 1958) is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland between 2005 and 2019. She was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Work and Pensions until 2010 with responsibility for child poverty and childcare.

Helen Goodman
Official parliamentary portrait, June 2017
Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform
In office
3 December 2014  September 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byChris Bryant
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 Justice
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
6 May 2005  6 November 2019
Preceded byDerek Foster
Succeeded byDehenna Davison
Majority502 (1.2%)
Personal details
Born (1958-01-02) 2 January 1958
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Charles Seaford
Alma materSomerville College, Oxford
Websiteofficial website

Early life

Goodman's mother was a Danish immigrant and her father was an architect. 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.[1]

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.

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 the 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.

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.[2] She was re-elected in 2010, 2015 and 2017, although with a majority of less than 600 votes.

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.

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.

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.[3]

On 3 December 2014, she became Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform as part of a small Shadow Cabinet reshuffle by Ed Miliband.[4] Since February 2016, Goodman has also served as a member of the Advisory Board at Polar Research and Policy Initiative.[5]

From 9 June 2016 to 12 June 2016 she attended the 64th annual Bilderberg Conference in Dresden, Germany.[6]

Goodman supported Remain in the June 2016 EU referendum campaign. Her constituency voted for Brexit. This was noted by the Conservative Party in their ‘Respect the Result’ campaign.[7]

She supported Owen Smith in the failed attempt to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016 Labour Party (UK) leadership election.[8]

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 [9]

In July 2017, Goodman was appointed as a junior minister in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Affairs team.[10]

In March 2019, during the indicative vote held by MPs to decide which version of Brexit that they supported, Goodman voted to remain in the customs union.[11]

In September 2019, Goodman alleged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had burned a £50 note in front of homeless people.[12] Johnson vehemently disputed the accusation and demanded that she withdraw her statement.[12]

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.[13] 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.[13]

She also claimed a £600 fee for advice from her management consultant husband.[14] 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.”[14]

Ingleton Speech controversy

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.[15]

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.[16] The speech reportedly "baffled" the audience and after five minutes she was called away from the microphone and informed of her mistake.[15]

Twitter controversy

In October 2015, Goodman attracted criticism from fellow MPs over a tweet mentioning Jeremy Hunt's wife. Hunt had mentioned his wife in a speech on Asian economies' work culture, and Goodman's tweet asked: "If China is so great, why did Jeremy Hunt's wife come to England?". The Labour Party issued a statement saying that Goodman's tweet "did not represent its views" and Labour's Shadow Leader of the House of Lords Lady Smith said Goodman's tweet was "absolutely bizarre". Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said it was a "terrible tweet" and called for Goodman to apologise.[17] She later deleted the tweet and issued an apology.[18]

Personal life

Goodman is married to Charles Seaford,[14] a Senior Fellow at Demos.[19] The couple have two children.


  1. Will Metcalfe (10 March 2015). "Election 2015: Bishop Auckland constituency and candidates - all you need to know". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. Goodman's maiden speech, publications.parliament.uk; accessed 11 December 2015.
  3. Goodman, Helen (5 March 2013). "Trying to live on £18 a week showed the unfairness of the bedroom tax". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  4. Helen Goodman named as Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform by Miliband, bbc.co.uk; accessed 12 December 2015.
  5. "Helen Goodman MP - The Polar Connection".
  6. "Participants | Bilderberg Meetings". www.bilderbergmeetings.org. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  7. "North East MP in Tory crosshairs over Brexit stance". 26 May 2018.
  8. "Full list of MPs and MEPs backing challenger Owen Smith". LabourList. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  9. Christon, Stacey-Lee (18 March 2017). "March to save scores of jobs at Bishop Auckland offices". The Northern Echo. Newsquest Ltd. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  10. "Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman MP joins Corbyn's front bench | Tyne Tees - ITV News". Itv.com. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  11. @HelenGoodmanMP (30 March 2019). "Very pleased to have been third name on this CU motion tonight" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  12. Morris, James (25 September 2019). "Boris Johnson vehemently denies claim by Labour MP that he burned £50 note in front of homeless people". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  13. Allen, Nick (19 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: Helen Goodman claimed £500 for stay in holiday cottage in her constituency". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  14. Swaine, Jon (12 December 2015). "MPs' expenses: Helen Goodman claimed £600 for husband's office advice". Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  15. Duggan, Oliver (23 June 2014). "Labour MP hails beautiful waterfalls of Ingleton - in the wrong village". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  16. Jonathan Brown (16 June 2014). "Shadow Labour Minister Helen Goodman red-faced after confusing Ingleton, County Durham and Ingleton, North Yorks". The Independent. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  17. @timfarron (11 October 2015). "Terrible tweet from @HelenGoodmanMP. Never attack politicians families. I hope she apologises.Clearly she missed the 'Kinder Politics' memo" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  18. Helen Goodman: Twitter apology, bbc.co.uk; accessed 12 December 2015.
  19. "Charles Seaford". Demos. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Derek Foster
Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland
Succeeded by
Dehenna Davison
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