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Edwin Gooch: Champion of the Farmworkers

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Edwin Gooch was a significant figure in agricultural trade unionism and Labour Party politics in the mid-20th century.

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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, Clement Attlee and Aneurin Bevan.

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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.

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.

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