Harry Leslie Smith blue plaque proposal for his childhood home in Halifax

Harry Leslie Smith, the veteran international social democratic campaigner who has passed away aged 95.
Harry Leslie Smith, the veteran international social democratic campaigner who has passed away aged 95.

Labour councillors have paid tribute to Harry Leslie Smith, the veteran international social democratic campaigner who has passed away aged 95.

Calderdale councillors are exploring the possibility of putting up a blue heritage plaque if they can pinpoint his childhood home in Boothtown, Halifax.

Yorkshire-born Mr Smith died in Canada where he had emigrated in the 1950s with his wife Frieda, but with 221,000 Twitter followers his reputation was worldwide and he wrote columns for publications including the Daily Mirror, The Guardian, New Statesman, the International Business Times and the Morning Star.

After his wife passed away he began a writing career late in life, publishing his autobiography Harry’s Last Stand, a title which as @harryslaststand became his Twitter handle.

Sowerby Bridge ward councillor Adam Wilkinson said he had read that Mr Smith’s son hoped a blue plaque might be placed to mark one of the places his father grew up in, with Harry’s Yorkshire roots strong to the last as he divided his time between Canada and the UK, adding his support to the left to the 2015 General Election and involved in the 2016 EU Referendum campaigns, particularly being a staunch supporter of the National Health Service.

Following a speech to the 2014 Labour conference he was back in Calderdale for the 2015 General Election where he met activists and backed Josh Fenton-Glynn’s unsuccessful bid to win the Calder Valley seat that year.

Councillor Wilkinson said Mr Smith had been an inspirational figure who had moved to Halifax from Bradford in 1937 – Harry’s family moving from his Barnsley birthplace in South Yorkshire to West Yorkshire when his miner father became unemployed – just a few years before Mr Smith’s Second World War service.

“Early last week when I heard that Harry was in a bad condition there was some conversation on Facebook about it and someone had mentioned his son’s drive to have a plaque put up somewhere he had spent his early years.

“I had read Harry’s Last Stand and it struck me he spent some of his time in Halifax, having moved to Boothtown early in 1937.

“I chair the Joint NHS Health Scrutiny Committee and his support of the NHS has inspired me.

“I would describe him as an inspiration – a man at his age still being so passionate about those issues, trying to bring about a better society.

“He lived at a time before the welfare state and before the NHS and can remember what society was like when you could only see a doctor if you could afford it,” he said.

Todmorden ward councillor Susan Press said Mr Smith was at Hebden Bridge Trades Club in the 2015 General Election campaign.

“He gave us a speech about the NHS, just before the 2015 General Election. The first time I saw him speak was at the Real Britain event in 2014 when he read from his book. Everyone was in tears.

“His death is a very sad loss and he was very proud of his Yorkshire roots,” she said.

In recent years he visited Halifax, including the Borough Market, where, he Tweeted, he was doing his shift at Grosvenor’s stall in the arcade when Britain entered the second world war in September 1939.

Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said he would be looking into the possibility of putting up a blue plaque to Mr Smith.

“Harry was a remarkable man who campaigned for his beliefs with astonishing energy in the later years of his life.

“He’s an example to any of us of the need to speak out and work for the change you believe in.

“As a councillor for Boothtown, where he lived before the war, I will be exploring the blue plaque possibility that Adam has suggested,” he said.

Mr Smith was a Royal Air Force veteran who served in Germany as part of the occupation force when the second world war ended.

It was there he met his wife and having emigrated to Canada they worked in the oriental rug trade.

He started to write late in life when Frieda had passed away, publishing work, giving speeches and developing that Twitter following.