By Hannah Newberry
It’s true that we in Comment seldom revert to commemoration when there are so many forthcoming social issues that still to be resolved in the world around us. However, today we digress and think about someone who deserves a pedestal in a section where we utilise our freedom of speech to talk passionately about grievous social injustices and reforms that would better reflect the disadvantages of the minority. Harry Leslie Smith, veteran and Labour Party member, died at the age of 95 last week, and is worthy of mention because he encouraged myself, and I’m sure many others who make an effort to read our section every week, to consider writing as a tool to instil change and embolden uninformed minds as opposed to doing so for menial effect.
‘The world’s oldest rebel’ will resonate with a lot of our avid readers – those who campaign for the welfare state, human rights, the erosion of public services the rights of immigrants, and the dissipation of our gargantuan budget towards war in the western world – this man helped make it possible. Every time Comment have engaged with something of a political nature, we have this man to thank for leading the way with a more national, vocal platform than is sometimes possible in Gair Rhydd. He coined the original antithetic stance on the poppy – something we deliberated about here in Comment mere weeks ago.
We are surrounded by more and more difficulties as the years go by – while we stray from the threat of colloquial war, we worry about nuclear rearmament. While we stray from the condemnation of human rights violations, we struggle to find an ethical denouement to the refugee crisis in parliament. While we stray from the notions of isolationism and non-interventionism in the 20s, we battle with egocentricity in the electorate trying to find an adequate deal for Brexit. Harry Leslie Smith serves not only as a reminder of the horrors we have encountered, but also the importance of vocal and informed opinions if we are to help rectify the inevitable reflux of social inequality, economic stagnation and apathetic responses to political extremism.
One of Harry’s most iconic comments still finds relevance today. “Today we must be vigilant. We must never ever let the NHS free from our grasp because if we do, your future will be my past.” Therefore, we take his passing in our stride and thank society’s paradigm of a political hero for what he has offered us thus far. Now, we focus on working with the problems that still give us reason to write the way we do every week, and more importantly, remembering why we are doing so.
“These men. They have the same suits, the same accents, the same smiles. Eighty years ago, cutting money for social services, housing and job creation was a grotesque failure. It didn’t succeed then and it is certainly not going to succeed today.” – Harry Leslie Smith, Harry’s Last Stand