Labour Campaigner Harry Leslie Smith Dies Aged 95

Second World War veteran was seriously ill after a fall in Canada.

Jeremy Corbyn has paid tribute the “irrepressible campaigner” Harry Leslie Smith, who has died at the age of 95.

Smith, a second world war veteran who had been critically ill in hospital, died on Wednesday following a fall in Canada, where he was visiting his son.

He described himself as “the world’s oldest rebel”, and had dedicated his retirement to battling poverty and campaigning for the support of the NHS.

A Barnsley-born son of a miner, also sounded the alarm about the rise of the far-right anti-immigration movement and toured the country in a bid to defend the rights of refugees.

During prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Corbyn said: “I want to pay tribute to my friend Mr Harry Leslie Smith. He was an irrepressible campaigner for the rights of refugees, for the welfare state and for our national health service.

“We thank Harry for his life and his work.”

The news of Smith’s death was announced on Wednesday morning by his son, via Smith’s Twitter account. The post read: ”At 3:39 this morning, my dad Harry Leslie Smith died. I am an orphan.”

Tributes poured in on social media. Corbyn added: “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.”

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, wrote: “Very sad to hear of the death of Harry Leslie Smith. He was one of a kind who never wavered in his fight for equality and justice. We should all carry his passion, optimism and spirit forward.”

And Labour MP, Angela Rayner, wrote: “R.I.P. @Harryslaststand sending my deepest condolences to Harry’s family and friends. A staunch Socialist to the end...”

Smith joined the RAF during the war and later emigrated to Canada, where he had three sons with his late wife Friede.

He was the author of five books about life in Britain during the Great Depression, the war and post-war austerity.

A Labour supporter, he threw his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership in 2015.

Smith rose to prominence after a moving speech on the NHS and social at the party’s conference in 2014. He told delegates in Manchester that hospitals, doctors and medicines were for “the privileged few, because they were run by profit”.

He added: “My memories stretch back almost a hundred years, and if I close my eyes, I can smell the poverty that oozes from the dusty tenement streets of my boyhood.”


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