Tag Archives: Harry Leslie Smith

Don’t let Harry’s Last Stand be in vain

Smiling all the way: The late, great Harry Leslie Smith.

The better part of the UK has been in mourning for Harry Leslie Smith, the 95-year-old crusader who came to public attention in 2014 with his campaign to save the National Health Service from destruction at the hands of a Conservative government.

If you’re a fan of Mr Smith, you’ll have read and heard so many eulogies that anything I say here about him will be superfluous. He was a valued reader of Vox Political, as I was a fan of him, but I didn’t know him well.

His finest moment was his speech to the Labour Party conference in 2014, when he spelled out the consequences of letting the Conservatives take our publicly-funded, publicly-provided, free-at-the-point-of-use health service away from us, as they have been doing piecemeal since 2010:

Harry decided to become a campaigner because he remembered living in a United Kingdom that did not have a National Health Service and wanted to do whatever he could to prevent a return to those – let’s face it – barbarous days.

You can get a taste of it in an extract from his book, Harry’s Last Stand, that you can read here.

It seems to me that people will propose many ways to commemorate this inspirational man – this suggestion from Rachael Swindon is a topical example:

They will all have merit, I’m sure.

But wouldn’t it be the best way to celebrate his life if we all do what we can to achieve his aim – and save the NHS from the Tories.

Harry knew he was close to the end of his life when he started talking about the NHS. He wasn’t doing it for himself – he did it for us.

Those of you who have followed This Site for a long time will know that I believe the best possible leadership is leadership by example – and I would say Harry has shown us the best possible leadership.

So let’s do something for him: Take up the torch he has left behind, follow his example and finish the job he started – by speaking out publicly against Tory dismantling of the NHS wherever we find it.

During his last few days, Twitter-based fans were urged to tweet using the hashtag #istandwithHarry

We can’t stand with Harry any more. He’s made his Last Stand. It’s time for us to make our stand instead.

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Why we should all fight the politicisation of the poppy

161104-remembrance-poppies

There was discussion of the Remembrance poppy on the BBC’s Question Time yesterday, including from one audience member who didn’t realise it is worn to commemorate all our war dead, right up to the present day.

The debate was about FIFA banning footballers from wearing poppies on November 11 (the organisation does not allow players to wear political, religious or commercial messages on their shirts). The comments quoted below are by 90+ year old pro-NHS campaigner and political commentator Harry Leslie Smith, who won’t be wearing a poppy either because he suspects politicians of subverting their message.

It seems there are a lot of misconceptions going around, and very few people willing to put them to rest.

This Writer won’t stop wearing a poppy in the near future. But I don’t want to see it used as a justification for further warfare either – that is the exact opposite of its purpose.

And I think that is the answer.

Perhaps it is time to start questioning politicians when they start sabre-rattling. Let’s call them out on their action. Do they wear poppies in the run-up to November 11? Then why agitate for further military action?

Don’t they know they’re disrespecting our honoured dead?

Perhaps that might engender a swift shift of rhetoric.

I can no longer wear a poppy because its meaning of respect for the fallen and the motto “never again” on the First World War memorial has been profaned by our wars to maintain our empire after the fall of Hitler, and our modern conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

I feel now that wearing the poppy gives a blank cheque to our politicians to justify their folly in wars of questionable merit, as well as the needless deaths their sanguine votes for boots on the ground costs both our soldiers and innocent civilians in foreign countries.

Wearing the poppy today lets our politicians off the hook for their symbiotic relationship to the arms industry and their criminal disregard for the refugee crisis.

We have lost our right to collectively mourn our war dead if we are unwilling to at least investigate the notion that our military industrial complex might not have our country’s best interests at heart when they sell bombs to tyrants.

It is why the insistence of certain media outlets to name and shame those who don’t wear the poppy is not only reprehensible, but jingoistic, and will ultimately help lead us into conflicts that will threaten the lives of thousands of our young like the First Great War did.

Source: Remembrance Day: Why I stopped wearing a poppy

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BBC whitewashes ‘government propaganda’ NHS story

131029bbcbias

 

Back at the end of September the BBC News website ran a story on 91-year-old Harry Smith’s speech to the Labour Party Conference, in which he detailed the miserable state of healthcare before the arrival of the NHS and stated his fears for the future of the service under the Conservative Party.

This was all fine. What a shame Auntie’s unnamed reporter had to spoil it by adding in two extra paragraphs that parroted – almost word-for-word – comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that seemed to contradict what Mr Smith had said. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, put the statements into an image, allowing people to compare Mr Hunt’s statements with the BBC’s. That image is reproduced again here:

bbc-hunt-quotes1

The BBC report was clearly paraphrasing Mr Hunt’s words. No attempt was made to indicate that this was the government’s side of the issue; the offending paragraphs were stationed at the end – as statements of facts that contradict Mr Smith’s words.

That’s blatant government propaganda, in the view of this blog – especially as both statements are false.

That’s right – analyse the facts and Mr Hunt’s/the BBC’s assertions fall apart.

Did the government increase NHS spending in the UK? The BBC attitude was that it has, because the amount of money spent on the NHS – in England alone – has increased.

But Mr Smith wasn’t talking about England alone. Look at the BBC article (which has been revised since Vox Political complained) and you’ll see he refers to “the Britain of my youth”. The final paragraph (as it is now) does not separate England from the rest of the UK.

You may think that’s nit-picking. Try this instead: A “money-terms” increase in NHS spending is not what the Coalition government promised. The Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised a “real-terms” increase and that is what Jeremy Hunt said had happened in the comment from 2012. But spending on the NHS has fallen in real terms.

The BBC’s complaints director, Richard Hutt, in a letter of October 31, admitted as much: “My research suggests that spending on the NHS has increased marginally in terms of the amount of money spent… but as you are aware, if GDP deflators are applied a slight decrease is shown.”

But, following on from a previous BBC response in which we were told, “your blog talks about real-terms spending. Our original article did not, and had we wished to refer to real-terms spending, we would have said so,” he continued: “Nothing in the article indicated that the intention was to refer to “real-terms” spending and so I have difficulty in agreeing that this is how it would have been understood.”

Then what was the point of mentioning spending at all?

The promise was to increase “real-terms” spending, and “real-terms” spending has in fact decreased. Any reference to spending other than in “real-terms” is therefore irrelevant to the debate and can only confuse the issue in the minds of the public.

In the face of the facts, Mr Hutt – it seems – isn’t having this. Doesn’t that suggest that he has been told to whitewash the BBC – deny any wrong-doing, no matter what?

Let’s move on.

Does the Coalition support the founding value of the NHS that nobody, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care? The easy answer to this is no, it doesn’t.

It was the work of a moment on a search engine to find a story demonstrating the opposite. It was this Daily Mail article, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.

In response, the BBC changed the wording of the last paragraph slightly, claiming that this changed the meaning. It didn’t.

The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit has done nothing but whitewash its story.

Never mind; there was still one more bullet in our gun. An email has just been sent to Mr Hutt, pointing out the words of Tom Pride that kicked off the whole affair:

“These are not facts. They are the opinions of a government minister being reported as facts by the BBC.

“That’s not news. It’s propaganda.

“Mind you, I don’t know why the reporter who wrote the article is so keen to remain anonymous.

“I mean, we all know that the reporting of unattributed propaganda from government ministers is a sackable offence for professional journalists in reputable news organisations.”

It’s best not to expect a reasonable response.

It’s clear we aren’t dealing with a reputable news organisation at all.

BBC propagandists are busted again over NHS claims

The BBC is sticking to its guns over a report that falsely claimed the Coalition government has increased spending on the NHS during each year it has been in office.

In its article on Harry Leslie Smith’s extraordinary speech to the Labour Party conference, the BBC News website desecrated his words by claiming: “The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.”

Fellow blogger Tom Pride leapt to the attack, pointing out that the BBC had copied comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and presented them as facts –

bbc-hunt-quotes1

– when in fact they weren’t.

Vox Political then stepped into the fray, and Yr Obdt Srvt wrote a sternly-worded complaint to the Corporation, together with an article about the issue which appeared on this site.

The BBC has now responded and is trying to wheedle its way out of trouble. Here’s the email:

Thank you for getting in touch about our report.

We stated that:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

This is an accurate reflection of events as both parties did commit in the 2010 coalition agreement to pursue the original goals of the NHS.

However, because some readers were misinterpreting this to suggest the word “committed” represented an assertion by the BBC, the wording has been changed to say:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

Not good enough, BBC!

This response makes no reference at all to the most glaring error in the article – the claim that the Coalition has increased spending on the NHS.

Look at this table, from the UK Statistics Authority’s monitoring review paper, Real Terms Estimates for Health Expenditure in England over the Spending Review Period, 2010-11 to 2014-15. It shows known spending, according to the most up-to-date statistics available at the time (June 19 last year), along with estimates for the remainder of the current Parliament.

nhsspending

Did you notice the rows relating to changes in spending are all minus figures – meaning spending was less than intended? In those years when spending was known, it was less than for the 2009-10 financial year (when Labour was in office) meaning it is impossible for the BBC to claim that “the Coalition government has increased spending each year during the current Parliament” without revealing itself as a Coalition government propaganda organisation.

Claims that these spending figures relate only to England cannot invalidate them as the Coalition has limited the amount it provides to other countries in the UK. Funding for Wales, for example, has fallen by an average of 2.5 per cent per year, in real terms, between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The BBC News website has even run a story on this subject.

As for “both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care“, take a look at this Daily Mail article, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.

Admittedly, the Daily Mail is always going to be a dodgy source of material, what with its long and well-deserved record of inaccuracy, but there are plenty of similar stories in the mainstream media.

So now we have a situation in which the BBC has lied to the public and, after the lies were pointed out, has tried to duck responsibility with more lies and evasion.

Faced with this kind of behaviour, there’s only one thing to do – publicise the transgression and demand a full public apology and correction.

Rest assured, you will read the next chapter of this story just as soon as the BBC responds. In the meantime, please share this article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Harry Leslie Smith: Mr Cameron – keep your mitts off my NHS!

This gentleman’s words speak for themselves:

The speech was the subject of discussion today at a local Mid Wales hotel, where memories of the dark times before the National Health Service were recalled:

“People had to pay to see a doctor – so they didn’t go to see a doctor. They got sick, and then they died.”

“People had to pay for a hospital bed – unless a rich person, who had a bed already, offered to let them use that. Then, of course, they were obligated to that rich person. Gangsterism, but by a different name.”

There is much more to the privatisation of health care services than David Cameron’s lies. It is about taking health away from people who – if the Tories get their way – will have very little else.

It is about ruining other people’s lives – not for any great or noble reason – but because they can.

If you want to see the face of evil in the modern UK, it isn’t some IS terrorist. It isn’t a foreign dictator.

It is the face worn by David Cameron. By Andrew Lansley. It is even the gormless face of Jeremy Hunt.

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