Over 90 years ago, Harry Leslie Smith was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, to a working-class
family. During that time there was no such thing as healthcare for most
people, with hospitals and doctors only available for those who
could afford them. At the age of 7 he lost his eldest sister to tuberculosis.
“Not a day has gone by in the intervening decades when I have not
thought of her miserable death from TB in a workhouse infirmary, or her
ignoble burial in a mass grave for indigents because my parents, being
from the working class, were too poor to afford my sister a doctor’s
“My sister’s tragic end came at a time when Britain was ruled by a
Tory government that had unleashed austerity on the citizens of Britain.
Her death, and the misery I endured from poverty in the 1930s, were
caused by government indifference to the plight of working-class Britain
– and that politicised me to become a socialist.”