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Labour HQ censors 91-year old veteran’s reference to welfare cuts and austerity

Harry Leslie SmithYesterday, I received an email appearing to come from Andy Burnham about what I’m sure he did describe as “one of the most moving speeches I’ve ever heard“. It deserved strong praise — that’s why we featured 91-year old Harry Leslie Smith’s demand for David Cameron to “keep his mitts off my NHS” on Left Futures last week. It received not one but two standing ovations. Unfortunately, unlike our blog, Labour HQ’s emails censored references to welfare cuts and austerity which are no doubt seen as inconvenient by some.

Harry Leslie Smith, occasional Guardian columnist and author of Harry’s Last Stand, addressed conference(you can watch the original here) during the NHS debate about the poverty and hardships of his youth in the 20s, the tragic death of his sister from TB and why, “after a long hard Great Depression and a savage and brutal war” he voted “for Labour and for the creation of the NHS“. But in his conclusion, he compared those privations of “another era of austerity” with:

the people of the present, who, because of welfare cuts and austerity measures, are struggling once more to make ends meet, and whose futures I fear for.

Party HQ saw fit in its emails (one last week to party members seeking donations and another yesterday to known supporters urging them to join the party) to delete the reference to “welfare cuts and austerity measures” in a different version of the speech from the one that still appears on its website in both text and video.

The deletion of these references cannot be justified in terms of style or readability – the censored version of the speech is barely shorter than the original. This section of the speech was highlighted not only by Left Futures but also by the Daily Mirror. The motive can only be political – to remove a reference which is seen as embarrassing because Ed Balls does not intend to end either welfare cuts or austerity.

Political censorship of this kind is inevitably reminiscent of the worst of the Stalin-era Soviet Union such as the removal from photos of images of former leading Communists Trotsky, Kamenev and Yezhov.

We do not presume that Andy Burnham or his office was in any way involved in this act of censorship.



  1. jeffrey davies says:

    it seems they aint getting rid of the blairites changing still whot they dont want yet there are some labour left in this sorryfull little tory party who try has they might to say they labour one must remember that when voting but who do we vote for has the two main partys there isnt much between them jeff3

  2. swatantra says:

    If the powers that be hadn’t deleted the said comments, nobody would have noticed, and it wouldn’t have become ‘a story’. Balls might have found the passages embarrasing but he should have put up with it.

    1. Robert says:

      He would have laughed it off as being childish just the same when people say he’s a Tory which of course he is..

      But the fact is New labour not dead it’s the labour party that died.

      Hard work is labour’s new mantra even though most of the labour party have never tried it.

  3. David Melvin says:

    The evidence is mounting up that the Labour party is a lost cause for any one who disagrees with the current orthodox. It is the problem not the solution.

  4. Hi there, I’m from the digital team at the Labour Party and wanted to explain how we ended up sending an email with a slightly edited version of Harry’s speech.

    Almost the whole digital team were in the room when Harry made his brilliant speech, and we all loved it. We wanted as many people as possible to hear what he had said, so we posted the full version of the speech on our blog ( and a video of it to our YouTube ( and Facebook accounts. @UKLabour and Ed Miliband also tweeted links to the blog and video.

    We also sent an email to most members with an edited version of the speech. We edited multiple sentences and removed some paragraphs as we felt it increased the readability. We checked these edits via Harry’s family as we wanted to make sure he would be happy with the version we sent out. We had personally loved the speech, and hoped to bring it to life in an email, without altering the meaning.

    I appreciate that many people won’t agree with our editing choices, but hope this gives some background to our decision.


    1. Robert says:

      Sorry it just does not work sound way to much like Progress.

  5. Pete Riches says:

    This censorship is precisely why I will not be able to force myself to vote for Labour in 2015. I cannot vote for any party which intends to continue with these savage, unfair welfare cuts which further demean the working poor and their families, and to maintain the ideological construct of so-called austerity as a pathetic, transparent fig leaf behind which lurks corporate tax dodgers and corrupt, un-prosecuted bankers and hedge fund managers. As the election looms, I am incredibly frustrated. I have no-one to represent me.

    1. Robert says:

      Well said .. same here

  6. Mervyn Hyde says:

    The problem is the Neo-Liberal agenda started way back in the seventies, we called it monetarism then and was dressed up as financial probity.

    It only really became apparent that Labour had changed when Blair came into office, he of course signaled that change to the City of London by making Margaret Thatcher his first guest to number ten, followed later by Gordon Brown, sadly Ed Miliband Oxford PPE, is doing exactly the same, he though will have dig the old matron up if he were to extend the same invitation.

    The deficit of course is a lie and even to this day the Tories state that austerity must continue whilst promising to reduce taxation on the lowest incomes.

    As the so called deficit is made up of “the difference between the the tax raised and the money needed for public expenditure.”

    New Labour are not Labour but trading on that name, the only sensible option is vote for any left wing party other than the established parties, Labour died when Neo-Liberalism came to power.

    Time to rebuild our Party but not from within as that is a lost cause. There are alternatives, Left unity, Greens, or the NHA Party.

    1. David Melvin says:

      Agreed Mervyn! The Labour party continue to be the problem not the solution.

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