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Harry's Last Stand: How the world my generation built is falling down, and what we can do to save it Hardcover – 5 Jun 2014
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'A kind of epic poem, one that moves in circular fashion from passionate denunciation to intense autobiographical reflection ... should be required reading for every MP, peer, councillor, civil servant and commentator. The fury and sense of powerlessness that so many people feel at government policy beam out of every page.' * Melissa Benn, Guardian * 'Smith's unwavering will to turn things around makes for inspirational reading.' * Big Issue North * '[With] sheer emotional power ... Harry Leslie Smith reminds us what society without good public services actually looks and feels like.' -- Melissa Benn * New Statesman * 'Mr Smith's is a rousing, earthy writing that's part Tony Harrison, part Dennis Skinner' * NudgeMeNow.com * 'This hymn of wrath against the toxic nexus of money and power in austerity UK from a Bradford pauper's son, excommunicated from the Catholic church for marrying an "enemy" woman in post-war Germany, is a compelling life-verdict.' * Paul Routledge, The Tablet * 'Harry's Last Stand is fast becoming a well-deserved publishing phenomenon. It is a breathtaking argument, brilliantly delivered, who said only the new generation have the capacity to make a difference?' -- Mark Perryman * Left Futures * 'A moving first-person account from 91-year-old Harry Leslie Smith of growing up before the creation of the welfare state and NHS. Making a simple, emotive case for progressive politics, Smith was the star turn at this year's Labour party conference.' * Guardian [Best Political Books of 2014] * 'Harry Leslie Smith is absolutely one of my heroes. Everyone should read this and be humbled.' -- Annie Lennox `It is not enough to read Harry's record of the struggles and hopes of a generation - we have to re-assert his principles of common ownership and the welfare state. If Harry can do it, we should too!' -- Ken Loach 'I read Harry's Last Stand in a single sitting. Labour should read to get fire in bellies. Tories should read in shame.' -- Alastair Campbell 'Seek this one out. If it doesn't make you angry there's something wrong with you. It's inspirational stuff.' -- Rick O'Shea Shortlisted for 'Polemic of the Year' - Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015
About the Author
Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 91, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 80,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.
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He feels Britain has gone from a nation that stood up to fascism and Hitler and created the welfare to state to one that elects governments that are totally in thrall to big business. He’s seen the same things occur at different points in his life and says he may be old but he still has the same worries as many people.
He feels that people are living in a culture of fear fuelled by tabloid sensationalism. People are getting caught up in stories about immigration and are losing sight of those in need. He wonders why the tabloids castigate ordinary people while huge corporations dodge tax. He watches the news but it feels tired, as if written by lobbyists.
Harry describes the motions of his day and recalls distant memories. He remembers the Great Depression and gives a heartbreaking account of the experiences of his own family. He worries about the NHS and housing and wonders how the beautiful systems set up to protect the poor are being destroyed. He’s concerned that Britain could be withering into two nations, the rich and the poor.
Harry says that people need to vote to make sure a wide range of voices are heard. Britain’s social safety net is at risk if people don’t take action to protect it. Big business must be taxed properly and he feels young people should travel the length and breadth of the country to see the wide diversity and gain a good knowledge of all walks of life.
This could easily have become a bit of a rant about the state of the nation but Harry has let us in on his own personal experience to put forward a passionate argument for people to think about the things that really matter and benefit society as a whole. These things must be protected in order to create a fairer, more tolerant and ultimately happier and better society.
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