Edwin Gooch was a significant figure in agricultural trade unionism and Labour Party politics in the mid-20th century. After setting up South Norfolk Labour Party in his native town of Wymondham in 1918, he helped elect George Edwards MP, then came to prominence himself in the 1923 Great Strike of Norfolk farmworkers. As President of the National Union of Agricultural Workers from 1930, he served for almost 35 years in an honorary but influential role, and in 1945 he was elected MP for North Norfolk, becoming Party Chairman ten years later. He led the fight for decent wages and conditions for farmworkers, and campaigned against the tied cottage, with support from Labour heroes George Lansbury, Clem Attlee and Nye Bevan.
His teetotal blacksmith father, and his mother – both Primitive Methodists – set high standards, and after working briefly at the family forge he became first a printer then a journalist and chief sub-editor on the Norwich Mercury. His profession allowed him to play an independent role in the Union, immune from victimisation suffered by organisers who worked on the land. It also gave him a platform for his vision of prosperity for workers and farmers alike in a shared rural economy, subsidised and regulated by government. His marriage to Ethel Banham was a meeting of minds: both dedicated their whole lives to public service in their home county.
Edwin Gooch’s role in the NUAW has been examined by labour historians, but this is the first biography. His grandson Simon Gooch has drawn on his late father’s reminiscences, his own childhood memories and archival research – often using Edwin’s own words from the NUAW’s journal The Land Worker. The language of political debate comes back to life, creating a vivid portrait of a man whose strong Norfolk accent once rang around the House of Commons.
The book is available from Poppyland Publishing– https://www.poppyland.co.uk/products/B79673
The author Simon Gooch was educated in Norwich and at art school in London. He worked as a graphic designer and illustrator until extended travels in the USSR and Eastern Europe led him into freelance journalism. He is now a genealogist and historical researcher.
His other published books include a biography, Group Captain John ‘Joe’ Collier – Bomber Commander, Air War & SOE Strategist & Dambuster Planner, and Holwood – A Stroll Around the Estate, a study of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger’s country house in Kent