Harry Leslie Smith was not the usual kind of person I feel compelled to memorialise on the occasion of their death. He was in no sense an entertainer. What he was was a plain-speaking, ordinary man who in the final years of a long life – he died aged 95 – began to speak out about the world he saw around him, in clear and vivid words.
Harry had seen a lot, and remembered it. In particular, he had seen medicine in Britain before the creation of the National Health Service. He knew what it meant to have to pay, however grindingly poor you were, for health, and his was a voice ofauthority standing up against the creeping eosion of the NHS, at the hands of guardians who, in the grand tradition of cheap melodrama, want to dispose of it to line their own pockets.
Harry spoke with a clean sanity and a straightforward rationalism about things important to this country. Ninety five years is the proverbial ‘good innings’ but there is still thefeeling that it is not long enough. His loss is our loss, for the world has far too few people of Harry’s quality as it is, and his passing tips the balance yet further away. But it is his own loss, not lasting to see the change of government he and I and many others long for, to end the madness and destruction of so many years.
Go in peace, Harry Leslie Smith. You will not be forgotten.