A Barnsley man, aged 91, moved Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham to tears ahead of his Labour Party conference speech by warning that his poverty-stricken past would become the future if the NHS did not survive.
Harry Smith, who grew up in a ‘barbarous, bleak and uncivilised’ Barnsley slum, received standing ovations at the conference in Manchester.
The Second World War veteran, whose sister died from TB and was buried in a paupers’ pit, said: “In my heart, I can still feel my mum and dad’s desperation as they were trying to keep our family safe and healthy in the slum we called home.
“Common disease controlled our neighbourhood and snuffed out life like a cold breath on a warm candlelit flame.
“I still remember while out playing as a child on my front step the anguished cries that floated from a nearby neighbour’s window.
“They were screams from a woman dying from cancer who couldn’t afford morphine to ease her passage from this life.”
“Today we must be vigilant. We must never ever let the NHS free from our grasp because if we do, your future will be my past.”