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Phillip Whitehead (Read 2615 times)
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Phillip Whitehead
Jan 2nd, 2006, 7:05am
 
This is taken from The Guardian:

Television producer and Labour politician who remained loyal to his native Derbyshire
by Roy Hattersley
Monday January 2, 2006


Phillip Whitehead, a Labour MEP since 1994, who has died suddenly aged 68, was a man who matched a wide range of talents with deeply held convictions. He rose from the humblest of beginnings to enjoy distinguished careers in both the world of sophisticated television and the world of cynical politics. Yet he never acquired the pretensions which a more self-regarding man would have thought appropriate to his status. He died in the village house that had been his home since he was three.

His roots in Rowsley, just south of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, were planted when Whitehead was adopted by the village carpenter and his wife. It was from there that he went to Lady Manners school in Bakewell, where he won an exhibition to Exeter College, Oxford, to read philosophy, politics and economics. In 1961 he became president of the Union. During his national service he was commissioned into the local regiment, the Sherwood Foresters, but chose secondment to the Royal West African Frontier Force in what is now the Gambia. He left the army with a curriculum vitae that, at the beginning of the 1960s, was tailormade to guarantee a job in television.

And so it turned out. Whitehead joined the BBC in 1961. I vividly recall, about three years later, a recording of Gallery - the political programme on which he was then working. Jeremy Thorpe, who was another participant in the discussion, found it hard to believe that the bearded, down to earth, Derbyshire man who supervised our debate in his shirt sleeves was, like him, an Oxonian who had been president of the Union.

Whitehead became the producer of Panorama before he moved on to Thames Television to edit This Week (1967-70) and win the Guild of TV Producers award for best factual programme. When (after 13 years in the Commons) he was defeated in the 1983 general election, he returned to his trade. For a couple of years he was a director of Goldcrest (1984-87). Then he moved on to Brook Lapping Productions where he produced The World at War, Nixon, The Windsors, The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty and Kennedy, for which he won a second Guild of TV Producers award and an Emmy for best script of the year.

Politics came comparatively late into Whitehead's life. At Oxford, he played no part in the Labour Club but, by 1970, he was sufficiently committed to democratic socialism to abandon the easier and (more remunerative) life of a television executive to stand for parliament. He was elected member for Derby North and, in 1981, became the shadow spokesman for higher education. It was his misfortune to be a member of Labour's lost generation whose years were spent in opposition. Had the party won before 1997, there is no doubt that he would have held high office.

To the general surprise of his friends, he supported Michael Foot in the 1979 Labour leadership election, in part because he regarded Denis Healey's refusal to set out a manifesto in the Guardian as a denial of the openness which is an essential feature of modern politics. In 1983 he supported Neil Kinnock, in whose education team he had served on Labour's frontbench. But although, in those days, both Kinnock and Foot were crudely described as "on the left", Whitehead became a convinced "revisionist" in the tradition of Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Crosland and, from the beginning, he was a staunch supporter of Britain's place at the centre of the Common Market, which became the European Union.

For Whitehead, membership of the European Parliament was, therefore, a natural progression. He was elected for Staffordshire East and Derby in 1994 and, when constituency boundaries were changed, for the East Midlands, which he represented until he died.

In British politics, he had naturally devoted much of his time to matters concerning the arts and the media. For two years he wrote a column for the Times. He was chairman of the New Statesman during one of its periods of transition and gave the MacTaggart lecture to the Edinburgh Television Festival in 1987. He was made a member of the Annan Committee, which inquired into the future of broadcasting. In Brussels, on the other hand, he extended the interests in consumer affairs which had begun when he became a member of the Consumer Associations Council in 1982. But the old eclectic instinct was not dead. His concern for the wider world was confirmed by the award of the Polish Solidarity Medal.

Despite his 20 years as an MEP, much of the time spent in Brussels and the other locations to which members of the European parliaments must regularly travel, he remained a Derbyshire man. He supported Derby County with a passion, was instrumental in the rehabilitation of the Arkwright Mill at Cromford, regularly (though unostentatiously) attended the Buxton Festival and was to be seen not simply at Derbyshire "occasions", but enjoying the delights the county offers to a private citizen. Public figures often include "walking" in the recreation column of their Who's Who entry because they can think of nothing else. Phillip Whitehead walked. Had that not been the case, he would not have even considered making the claim.

It was during his early years at the BBC that he met Christine Usborne, who was, for a time, his assistant. They married in 1967. One of my early memories visiting the Whiteheads in Derbyshire is of a walk up a moderately steep hill. Phillip carried Joshua, his oldest son, then about three, in a homemade papoose on his back. Another son, Robert, and a daughter, Lucy, were born during the next four years. There are now three grandchildren. Phillip, unlike many politicians, was essentially a family man. He had sought out and found his natural mother. And to the end he remained close friends with his once unknown family.

He is survived by his wife and children.

Jeremy Isaacs writes: As a television producer in the 1960s, Phillip Whitehead embodied the best practice and the highest hopes of BBC television current affairs, yet he left the BBC. When, in 1967, as editor I failed to make a one-subject Panorama work to my superior's satisfaction, Phillip, having produced episodes on Nasser, and on Bobby Kennedy, followed me to Rediffusion. He became as good a producer as ITV's This Week ever had, and the best editor Panorama never had.

What made him the most gifted television journalist of his generation was a passionate concern for political process - he believed in democracy - and personal qualities of intellectual honesty, understanding, humour. He kept cutting-rooms waiting, but his colleagues loved working for him. In every topic he tackled, and particularly in Northern Ireland, Phillip aimed only at searching scrutiny and fair judgment. The Day Before Yesterday, for Thames TV, a six-part series on Britain from 1945 to 1959, set standards for historical documentary. On the Annan Committee on the future of broadcasting (1974-77), he shaped the future Channel Four. Fearless, he pricked pretension and saw through humbug. He was at ease with the audiences he served.

At home with his family in Kentish Town, north London, or in Rowsley, where every summer Phillip Whitehead's XI took on the village cricket team, he presided over convivial jollities. Yet the great world was never far away. Politics was a way of life.

The last time we met, he told me with relish of the early morning call in Washington DC that got him to the supreme court building in time for the judgment refusing legitimacy to US conduct at Guantánamo. An old friend on the court had alerted him. Phillip always knew what really mattered.

David Elstein writes: When Jeremy Isaacs was ousted from the editorship of Panorama, and returned to ITV, he recruited many leading talents from the BBC flagship, foremost being Phillip Whitehead, who was installed as editor of This Week in 1967. Phillip's first production for the BBC had been a profile of Oswald Mosley, and in subsequent films he profiled the German spymaster, Otto John, and Bobby Kennedy.

At This Week, first for Associated Rediffusion and then for Thames, Phillip led an outstanding team, including those Panorama defectors: reporters Robert Kee and John Morgan, directors Jo Menell, Jolyon Wilmhurst and Udi Eichler, and cameramen Mike Fash and Frank Hodge. Still at the BBC, I watched with envy and astonishment as Kee reported from a Rhodesia marching towards UDI, Godfrey Hodgson revealed to British viewers for the first time the nature of gerrymandering in Northern Ireland, Morgan reported from the Prague Spring, and Peter Williams portrayed strifetorn Newark. By the time I joined the directing team, This Week had established itself as the dominant current affairs team in British television, and Kee's vibrant film after the Soviet invasion of 1968, Remember Czechoslovakia, was just one example of the immensely wide-ranging and authoritative editions Phillip masterminded.

Bureaucrats, of course, shook their heads. An early attempt to re-recruit Phillip was thwarted by senior BBC figures concerned at his "unreliability" over Northern Ireland. His BBC file was rumoured to bear the telltale Special Branch Christmas tree alert. My first experience of ITV's regulators was seeing them trying to physically edit one of Phillip's many scoops: on the connection between Britain and the Greek Colonels.

After This Week, Phillip produced a six-part series on postwar Britain, entitled The Day Before Yesterday, and contributed two films to The World at War. Even after politics claimed him, he still found time, at Brook Productions and Brook Lapping Productions, to make such series as those on the Korean War, the Kennedys and the Windsors. It was his three years at This Week, though, that saw him at the height of his powers: politics' gain was television's loss.

· Phillip Whitehead, politician, television producer and writer, born May 30 1937; died December 31 2005
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Re: Phillip Whitehead
Reply #1 - Jan 4th, 2006, 6:38am
 
This is taken from The Times, January 4, 2006:

Phillip Whitehead
May 30, 1937 - December 31, 2005
Television producer and energetic conviction politician


A HUMANE and kindly man of great and infectious energy — articulate, versatile and talented — Phillip Whitehead had distinguished careers in television, as an award-winning producer, and journalism, and had 13 years as a Labour MP before becoming an MEP in 1994. He was noted, both among colleagues and political opponents, for his well-argued political convictions which were always expressed with passion and enthusiasm, either in the House of Commons or to anyone outside who would listen to him.

Yet he did not allow these to intrude, in any propagandist sense at least, on his work as a journalist or broadcaster. This, indeed, was noted for its dispassionate nature, and its scrupulous research. He made distinguished contributions to The Times and The Listener both as columnist and reviewer, and had made a remarkable impact on the television documentary, notably in his series The World at War, for which he won an Emmy Award in 1974. He had also had a stint during the 1960s as editor of This Week.

In the European Parliament the focus of his considerable energies was consumer affairs, food safety and the environment. He had played a leading role in shaping European consumer legislation, and written a number of blueprints for the parliament’s three-year “consumer action plans”. Previously, at Westminster, the achievement that gave him most pleasure was to be one of the sponsors of the 1975 Children’s Bill, which gave adopted children the right to seek out their biological parents. As an adopted child himself, this was a matter close to his heart.

Phillip Whitehead was born in 1937 in Matlock, Derbyshire, a county in which he was always to maintain a home. He was brought up in Rowsley, between Matlock and Bakewell, by the village carpenter and his wife, Harold and Frances Whitehead, who had adopted him. He was educated at Lady Manners’ Grammar School, Bakewell, from where he won a place at Exeter College, Oxford, where he read PPE. He was president of the Union in 1961.

After taking his degree he joined the BBC as a graduate trainee in 1961 and for the next six years was a producer, at the same time working as a WEA lecturer. He worked on a number of episodes for Panorama, of which it was often said in the business that he was the best editor the programme never had. But in 1967 he moved to Thames Television, where, for the next three years, he served as editor of This Week. In 1969 he won the Guild of TV Producers Award for Factual Programmes.

At Oxford he had taken no active part in political life. But he began to feel the need to leave the well-remunerated life of a television executive and play his part on the political stage. At the general election of 1966 he had contested Derbyshire West for the Labour Party, coming in second behind the Conservative incumbent. In 1970 he won the nomination for the safe Labour seat of Derby North, which he comfortably held at the general election of that year. This was, surprisingly, won by the Conservatives under Edward Heath, and so his first years in Parliament were in opposition.

He was not given office when Labour returned to power in 1974, but he was active and influential in a host of other ways, as a member of committees and as a campaigner in Parliament for causes in which he deeply believed. Besides the introduction of the 1975 Children’s Bill, he also had a hand in legislation on family planning and police complaints. From 1974 to 1977 he was a member of the Annan committee on the Future of Broadcasting.

After Labour found themselves in opposition again following Margaret Thatcher’s election victory of 1979, he became Opposition front-bench spokesman on higher education in 1980, from 1982 holding it in tandem with the arts spokeman’s job. Although he had voted for Michael Foot against Denis Healey in the Labour leadership elections of 1979, he found himself growing increasingly out of sympathy with the left of the party as it then was. A committed European, and a member of the Council of Europe Assembly from 1975 to 1980, he found his party’s antagonism to the project inexplicable.

In the event he lost his parliamentary seat at the 1983 general election and returned to journalism and broadcasting. From 1983 to 1985 he wrote a column for The Times.

Election in 1994 to the European Parliament as Labour MEP, initially for Staffordshire East and Derbyshire, from 1999 for East Midlands, gave a new and practical outlet to his convictions. He became chairman of its intergroup on consumer affairs and, from 2004, a member of its committee on international market and consumer protection. He was also a member of the parliament’s temporary committees on BSE and foot-and-mouth disease. From 1999 to 2004 he was chairman of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

In the meantime he had continued to be prolific as a TV producer and won an Emmy for his documentary The Kennedys in 1993. Apart from his political publications, he was the joint author, with Jonathan Lewis, of Stalin: a Time for Judgement (1990); with Piers Brendon, of The Windsors: a Dynasty Revealed (1994); and, with Jad Adams, of Dynasty: the Nehru/Gandhi Story (1997). All these were based on his television documentaries on those subjects.

Whitehead was among those who refused to accept that communist oppression was inevitable for the Europe beyond the Iron Curtain after the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. He chaired the Eastern Europe Solidarity Campaign, and became the most stalwart ally in the Commons of the Polish Solidarity Campaign of Great Britain (PSC). His support for Solidarity was recognised in November when Lech Walesa, the first President of a postwar free Poland, presented him with a Solidarity medal at a Westminster celebration of the trade union’s 25th anniversary.

Whitehead married, in 1967, Christine Usborne. He is survived by her, and by two sons and a daughter.

Phillip Whitehead, politician and television producer, was born on May 30, 1937. He died on December 31, 2005, aged 68.
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