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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 by Harry Leslie Smith

Harry's Last Stand How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save it

Biography / Autobiography   Books of the Month   History   The Real World   
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Sue Baker's view...

June 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month.

In November last year, Harry Leslie Smith wrote a piece for the Guardian called “This Year, I will wear a poppy for the last time”, as a 91 year old ex-RAF man this was a very strong statement, the article went on to Facebook and caused a great deal of comment. Now in Harry’s Last Stand he considers everything we are in danger of losing owing to the current political dogma. Harry Leslie Smith can well remember a life before the NHS, equal Education for all, Trade Unions and worker’s rights. Now he sees everything he fought for going or gone, students weighed down by debt, workers rights diluted, the NHS being broken up and above all the widening of the gap between the haves and the have-not with the have-nots demonised and used as a political football. He clearly and powerfully articulates the ills of society and the failure of government to create a more equal society. From his own experience he knows that we are being returned to a way of living that didn’t work then and won’t work now.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Here, 91-year-old RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith outlines his views on subjects ranging from poverty and NHS cuts, to the lack of dignity with which the elderly are treated. As someone who grew up amidst the poverty of Depression-era Yorkshire and witnessed the horrors of the Second World War, his worry is that we are failing to learn from the past. He approaches each topic from a partisan left-wing perspective, with mixed results. At its best, the book shines a harsh spotlight on undeniable injustices on the part of employers, corporations and politicians, both past and present. However, Harry’s heartfelt, thought-provoking polemic is sure to divide opinion.
~ The Good Book Guide


Harry's Last Stand How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save it by Harry Leslie Smith

In November 2013 91-year old Yorkshireman RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith's Guardian article - 'This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time' - was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate. 'The sepia tone of November' he argued 'has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders ...I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.' Harry's Last Stand brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS cutbacks, political corruption, food poverty, the lack of dignity in old age - and much more. As someone who lived through the depression of the 1930s, the terror of the Second World War and the post-1945 consensus, Harry here presents a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.


'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' * * '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

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 60,000 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.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Reibling

Watch Harry's Youtube Video at : Click here

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd October 2014


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Icon Books Ltd


224 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Books of the Month
The Real World

Diaries, letters & journals

20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000
Society & culture: general



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