Geoffrey Robinson

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Geoffrey Robinson
Paymaster General
In office
2 May 1997 – 23 December 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Michael Bates
Succeeded by Dawn Primarolo
Member of Parliament
for Coventry North West
Assumed office
4 March 1976
Preceded by Maurice Edelman
Majority 4,509 (10.0%)
Personal details
Born (1938-05-25) 25 May 1938 (age 81)
Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater Clare College, Cambridge
Yale University

Geoffrey Robinson (born 25 May 1938) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Coventry North West since 1976. He was Paymaster General from May 1997 to December 1998, resigning after it was revealed that he had lent his government colleague Peter Mandelson £373,000 to buy a house. From 1996 to 2008 he was the owner of the New Statesman, a centre-left weekly political magazine.


Robinson was born in Sheffield, England and educated at Emanuel School, Clare College, Cambridge, and Yale University. On completing his formal education he became a Labour Party researcher before joining the newly created entity the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, at a time when the British government was promoting a merger between the Leyland Motor Corporation and BMC.[1] The merger duly took place amid high hopes that a solution to the BMC problem was in sight.[1]

Business career

A change of government led to a swift demise for "The Industrial Reorganisation Corporation", and in 1970 Robinson joined British Leyland, the company in the creation of which he had been instrumental.[1] His initial job title was "Staff executive, facilities planning", but after four months he was promoted to the position of Financial Controller.[1] It was an unusual appointment in a conservative industry, both on account of his relative youth and because he had no accountancy qualification.[1] (His formal tertiary education had concentrated on Russian, German and, possibly of more direct relevance, economics.[1])

Geoffrey Robinson was from 1972 Chairman of Innocenti in Italy, appointed following acquisition of the business by British Leyland, Robinson having played a leading role in acquisition negotiations following the death of Ferdinando Innocenti.[2]

Late in 1973 he succeeded Lofty England as Chairman of Jaguar Cars, also at that time under British Leyland ownership. He resigned in 1975 because he could not agree with the Ryder plan to integrate the many different makes under BLMC.

After the Triumph Motorcycles workers locked out their new owners, NVT, from their Meriden plant in 1973, Robinson was instrumental in setting up the subsequent Meriden Triumph workers' co-operative with a substantial Wilson Labour government loan from the minister for trade, Tony Benn. He served as an executive director in what was the last volume manufacturer of motorcycles in the United Kingdom. He occupied a similar non-executive role in the subsequent Triumph Motorcycles (Meriden) Ltd that the co-operative became when he helped negotiate away its debt with the new Conservative Thatcher government in 1981, although he left before the firm eventually closed in 1983.

In 1986 he founded technology company TransTec, which became a £200 million international conglomerate focussing on aerospace customers.[3] In 1996 he acquired the centre-left New Statesman magazine for £375,000.[3] In April 2008 he sold 50% of the business to Mike Danson, and the remainder a year later.[4]

Political career

Robinson has been a member of Parliament for Coventry North West, a safe Labour Party seat, since a by-election on 4 March 1976 caused by the death of MP Maurice Edelman. His Conservative opponent in the 1987 election was the novelist Jim Powell. During the 1980s with Labour in opposition he held frontbench positions, speaking for the party on trade and industry and on science.[5] He was Paymaster General in Tony Blair's government from May 1997 to December 1998, resigning after it was revealed that in 1996 he had lent his government colleague Peter Mandelson £373,000 to buy a house.[6][7]

Although a committed Labour and Gordon Brown supporter, Robinson has often been considered a 'champagne socialist'. His previous life as a businessman has made him one of the wealthiest members of parliament, with a personal fortune of around £30 million. He is a lover of fine wine and dining. He owns holiday homes in Tuscany (used once by Tony Blair for his summer holiday) and the South of France, and owns a penthouse flat in London's Park Lane. He bought the house Orchards in Godalming, Surrey (designed and built by Edwin Lutyens between 1897 and 1899) which has been described as 'among the finest Surrey Houses'. He also bought and restored Lutyens' Marshcourt (Stockbridge, Hampshire, 1901–1904) but sold it again in 1999 following the scandal which saw him resign as Paymaster General.

In 2000 Robinson published a memoir of his time in the Blair government, The Unconventional Minister: My Life Inside New Labour.[8] Robinson was the subject of Tom Bower's 2001 book The Paymaster.[9][10]

The Coventry Telegraph revealed in 2015 that the long-serving MP had told party activists he would step down to allow Greg Beales, Director of Strategy and Planning for the Labour Party and a former aide to Ed Miliband, to contest his seat. An email seen by the Coventry Telegraph's Simon Gilbert appeared to show Beales and Robinson discussing introductions to prominent members of the local Labour party. The email, apparently sent before any announcement of Robinson's resignation, suggested selection of a new MP would take place within two weeks. A second email, addressed to senior members of the local party, was also exposed by the Coventry Telegraph. It stated categorically that Mr Robinson would stand down before the next election; it appears the local Labour party was concerned Labour HQ would deprive them of an opportunity to freely choose the next candidate by strongly referencing Beales. A u-turn would appear to have taken place, due to the Coventry Telegraph coverage; Robinson contested and won Coventry North West.[11]

Coventry City FC

Robinson has had a long association with Coventry City Football Club, being a member of the board of directors from 1996. In 1997, when Robinson was made Paymaster General, he was forced to stand down from the board because members of the government were not permitted to hold directorships. Brenda Price, a former colleague from his Triumph Motorcycle board days at Meriden sat on the Coventry City board with him. In response to this the football club named him as honorary President but he eventually re-took his seat on the board of directors in 2002. On 21 September 2005, Robinson was named as acting Chairman of Coventry City after chairman Mike McGinnity was asked to step down by his doctor for an indefinite period due to ongoing health problems. Robinson was appointed chairman permanently on 3 November after McGinnity was forced to resign due to his health problems. On 10 October 2007 he announced that he would step down as chairman because "there are not enough hours in the day".[12] He remains a director of the club.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Turner, Philip (27 April 1974). "The new man at Jaguar". Motor. pp. 22–23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Turner, Philip (24 June 1972). "Innocenti – builders of the best Minis". Motor. Vol. 3649. pp. 10–11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Independent, 3 February 1997, New statesman or new conspirator?
  4. James Robinson "Mike Danson takes full ownership of New Statesman", The Guardian, 14 April 2009
  5. BBC, 4 May 2001, Profile: Geoffrey Robinson
  6. The Guardian, 2 July 1999, Mandelson broke rules over loans, says watchdog
  7. Daily Telegraph, 16 October 2000, Mandelson 'lied over home loan'
  8. Geoffrey Robinson (2000). The Unconventional Minister: My Life Inside New Labour. Michael Joseph. ISBN 978-0-7181-4421-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Tom Bower (2001). The Paymaster: Geoffrey Robinson, Maxwell and New Labour. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0689-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Observer review: The Paymaster by Tom Bower". The Observer. 1 April 2001. Retrieved 25 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Coventry chairman Robinson quits". BBC News. 10 October 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Edelman
Member of Parliament for Coventry North West
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Bates
Succeeded by
Dawn Primarolo
Business positions
Preceded by
Mike McGinnity
Coventry City F.C. chairman
Succeeded by
Ray Ranson