At 94, Harry Leslie Smith knows that time is not really on his side. But almost a century in this world has meant that, while knowing he is at the end of his life, he also feels, ever more keenly, the need to relate his own story – as a warning and as a call for vigilance as “fascism has started to stir once again across the globe”.
Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future, is “a call to arms” by the writer and political campaigner.
Describing himself as “a living bridge to your history,” this is not an instruction manual, Harry explains, but rather, “lessons of hope, love and endurance from my past”.
In a world of Brexit and Trump, Harry sees the ghosts of his own childhood and youth, through the suffering of the Great Depression and World War II. The interwar world that he grew up in was not the “fit country for heroes to live in” that Lloyd George had promised after the ‘war to end all wars’.
The book interweaves his own story with analysis and comment on the situation today. So for instance, having described the appalling conditions in which he was born in a Barnsley miner’s hovel, he details the losses of NHS maternity services in the UK today as a result of ideological austerity.
Page after page gives us stark reminders that history can repeat itself.
The reminiscences are told in a way that is painful to read but also utterly compelling.
The analysis is measured but unflinching – and not just of the role of the Conservative Party, past and present, in pursuing policies that keep the poor poor.
He is critical of New Labour and the post-Blair party in a number of ways. And while Harry sets out why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has many of the right ideas to close the equality gap in the UK, he is also carefully critical of his stance on Brexit, something Harry is quite clear he regards as an impending disaster for the country as a whole and in particular, for the poor and those who already feel left behind.
Harry is well aware that this could be a valedictory book, but in refusing to go gently “into that good night”, the clear-sighted power of his writing is something that all of us should pay heed to and its call is one we must answer.
* Thanks to publishers Little, Brown Book Group, we have 12 copies of the book to give away.
To be in with a chance, you need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name and address and the subject line: Harry Leslie Smith. The first 12 members to drop us a line will receive a copy.