Austerity: Past and Present

Harry Leslie Smith
Harry Leslie Smith

At a packed meeting on Thursday 2nd June members of Yeovil CLP joined those of Yeovil and West Dorset Unite Community Group and Trades Union Council to listen to a truly inspiring talk and call to action from Harry Leslie Smith.

Mr Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression of the 1930s and a World War II veteran. Although he retired (rather late in life) he has spent the last few years touring the country talking with people about his fears for our future. His message is that the Tory ideological austerity programme is transforming the country into a hungry and angry nation with society more divided than at any time since the 1930s.

Poverty,Homelessness and  the Workhouse

Socialists in the 1930's fought against austerity to build a welfare state
Socialists in the 1930’s fought against austerity to build a welfare state

Mr Smith knows only too well the deprivations of poverty. He talked passionately of his early life and his experience of homelessness, the workhouse, lack of healthcare, and being hungry. After the Second World War he and his generation worked to rebuild our society to ensure that others would not suffer as they had. This was to be a society built on the foundations of equality, where merit mattered rather than class, in which everyone would be able to plan and build a decent future for themselves and their children.

Many of us have reaped the benefits of the society built by Mr Smith and his compatriots. We have had houses we can call homes, good and free education, healthcare free at the point of use. Our lives have been enhanced by public services, including libraries and sports facilities: pensions have ensured a reasonable living in retirement. The welfare state provided a safety net for those less fortunate, but all had equality of opportunity and hope for a better life. This society is being destroyed by the ravages of austerity with deep cuts to public services and the welfare state.

1930’s Austerity

Austerity in the Great Depression of the 1930's
Austerity in the Great Depression of the 1930’s

Mr Smith saw the lives of the poor destroyed by austerity in the 1930s; young people turned feral. He fears that the austerity agenda being pursued now is turning the country back to the 1930s with children going to bed hungry and without hope for a better future, with the risk that these children will also become feral and we will return to the dog eat dog world of the 30s.

The message of this amazing man is that we must go out and fight for social and economic justice. His final statement before rousing applause “Together we can build a better Britain, and it starts with us”.

This meeting was organised by the Yeovil and West Dorset Unite Community and the Trades Union Council. It was supported by Thompsons Solicitors and Yeovil Constituency Labour Party.

For further information please contact

Gail Freeman-Bell

Press Officer Yeovil CLP

07838 117774


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