For the best part of two turbulent decades, the 1970s and 80s, my friend and rival Michael Green was scarcely off British television screens as industrial correspondent of Independent Television News. It was a period that encompassed two climactic miners’ strikes, the winter of discontent, and the advent of Thatcherism. Industrial news was so intertwined with politics that industrial reporters were on the air as much as political correspondents.
Michael, who has died aged 76 of a rare lung disease, managed it all with an even-handed fair-mindedness that contrasted with the political baggage encumbering some of his contemporaries. His willingness to listen and his palpable honesty brought him the respect and necessary confidences of industry leaders who were often suspicious and reluctant to level with the media.
A handsome, gregarious man, he was liked and respected at ITN as well as among the rumbustious industrial correspondents’ group, where his ability to drink a pint straight down did him no harm. His former editor, Sir David Nicholas, credited him with “a vital part in building up ITN’s reputation”. He was notorious for the last-minute timing of his copy but got away with it because “he was such a gentleman”; the word most frequently employed in many tributes on social media. As one close colleague said, “He deferred to none and listened to all. There wasn’t an ounce of vanity in his body – which is odd for our industry.”
Sir Brendan Barber, a former TUC general secretary, said: “He handled everyone with a mixture of charm and good humour. If you saw him coming, you would look forward to the encounter with some enthusiasm.”
Michael’s career followed a traditional journalistic route. Born in York, the son of John, a music teacher, and Enid (nee Hutchinson), he left school in Taunton at 17 to become a reporter on regional newspapers. He was hired by the Daily Mail when industrial correspondent for the Bristol Evening Post and then joined the Daily Telegraph. ITN came calling in 1973. In 1990 he was headhunted to become director of public relations at British Coal, leaving at privatisation for Vivendi, a French conglomerate. In 2002 he set up Green Fox Communications.
In 1967 he married Judy Law. They had met as teenagers and their strong bond was obvious. Judy kept horses at their home in Hampshire and Michael was known to muck out before leaving for work. They subsequently moved to Cockwood, in Devon, on the river Exe where Michael indulged his love of sailing and became commodore of the local sailing club. His extensive pro bono activities included working with prisoners via the Independent Monitoring Boards.
A physically active man, he regularly put himself to the test, usually for charity, running the London marathon and taking part in the Three Peaks challenge which involved both sailing and mountain-climbing.
He is survived by Judy, their three children, Oliver, Xanthe and Freddie, and six grandchildren, Rocket, Lily, Michael, Solomon, Jago and Pandora.