Tributes to social justice activist Harry Leslie Smith
Jeremy Corbyn has paid tribute to social justice activist and RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith who has died aged 95, hailing him as “one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on”.
Mr Smith, from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, was a critic of austerity and championed human rights and the welfare state.
He appeared at the Labour Party conference in 2014 to speak about life before the NHS and moved listeners to tears with his story.
A post on his Twitter account, which has more than 250,000 followers, announced his death yesterday morning.
Labour leader Mr Corbyn shared a video clip of Mr Smith speaking about the importance of the NHS, and wrote: “We will all miss Harry Leslie Smith – he was one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on.
“A World War Two veteran who dedicated his life to fighting for our National Health Service, a peaceful world and for countries to meet their moral responsibility by welcoming refugees.”
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson tweeted: “Harry Leslie Smith will remain an inspiration to all in the Labour movement engaged in the fight for justice and fairness.”
Mr Smith, an RAF veteran, survived the Great Depression and Second World War, and rose to prominence in 2013 after writing an article for the Guardian declaring that he would no longer wear a poppy.
The son of a coal miner, Mr Smith has spoken of growing up in the “barbarous” and “bleak” time of 1920s Barnsley, saying “it was an uncivilised time because public healthcare didn’t exist”.
He became a sought-after commentator, writing for national newspapers from his left-wing perspective, and his book, Harry’s Last Stand, was released to critical acclaim in 2014.
Harry Leslie Smith was 95.