‘We must never, ever let the NHS free from our grasp - because if we do, your future will be my past.’
Self-proclaimed ‘world’s oldest rebel’ Harry Leslie Smith spoke these words with conviction, passion and warning during an appearance at the 2014 Labour Party conference. Met with a standing ovation, he shot to fame after this heartfelt speech in defence of the National Service and about his life. A writer and political commentator, Smith grew up in poverty in Yorkshire and lost his sister to tuberculosis when she was just ten years old because his family could not afford a doctor. He joined the RAF in 1941 during the Second World War, and after seeing the crisis following the war, he became a passionate advocate for refugees, dedicating his life to helping them. He turned to writing in 2009 after the Global Financial Crisis and the death of his son in 2009, contributing to the Guardian and declaring in 2013 that he would no longer wear the red poppy because he felt it was being used to promote conflicts. After retiring, Smith wrote his memoirs and about the social history of 20th-century Britain. He died in 2018.
Let this tea towel serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come and the lessons we’ve learnt!