Joan Alison Smith (born 27 August 1953) is an English journalist, novelist, and human rights activist, who is a former chair of the Writers in Prison committee in the English section of International PEN and was the Executive Director of Hacked Off.
Joan Alison Smith
|Born||27 August 1953|
|Alma mater||University of Reading|
|Spouse(s)||Francis Wheen (1985–1993)|
|Partner(s)||Denis MacShane (2003–2010)|
The daughter of a park superintendent, Smith was educated at a state school before reading Latin at the University of Reading in the early 1970s. After a spell as a journalist in local radio in Manchester, she joined the staff of The Sunday Times in 1979 and stayed at the newspaper until 1984, although Smith still contributes book reviews, usually on crime fiction, to the publication. She has had a regular column in The Guardian's Weekend supplement, also freelancing for the newspaper and has contributed to The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, and the New Statesman.
In her non-fiction Smith displays a commitment to atheism, feminism (Misogynies: Reflections on Myths and Malice, 1989) and republicanism (Down with the Royals, 2015). She is scornful of popular culture and once gave away her television set to her ex-husband, although she acquired a new set almost a decade later.
In November 2011, she gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press and media standards following the telephone hacking practised by the News of the World. She testified that she considered celebrities thought they could control press content if they put themselves into the public domain when, in reality the opposite was more likely.
Although Smith was opposed to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, disputing the false claims about the Saddam Hussein regime's possession of Weapon of mass destruction, she has taken a different view during the Syrian civil war. As a consequence of the Syrian refugee crisis, and the 2013 Ghouta attacks using chemical weapons, she has called for military invention.
Outside the UK, Smith is probably best known for the Loretta Lawson series of crime novels which were published between 1987 and 1995. What Will Survive (2007) is a novel set in Lebanon in 1997 concerning a journalist's investigation into the death of a model and anti-landmine campaigner.
She is a keen supporter of Classics in state schools, describing the 1997–2010 Labour government's failure to act on the matter as "hardly their finest hour" and is a patron of The Iris Project. Smith is a supporter of the pressure group Republic and a Patron of Humanists UK. In 2015, she was elected chair of Labour Humanists, a group promoting secularist policies and humanist values within the Labour party.
Joan Smith was appointed the Executive Director of Hacked Off in late May 2014 in succession to Brian Cathcart. Smith assumed the position in June, but stood down in late June 2015 to return to her writing career full-time.
Smith was married to journalist Francis Wheen between 1985 and 1993.
She had a relationship with Denis MacShane, a British Labour Party politician at the time. On 25 May 2009, during the expenses scandal of 2009 Smith wrote an article for The Guardian titled "I am sick of my country and this hysteria over MPs" objecting to the furore over MPs' expenses which she cited as an example of bullying in public life, stating that her (then) partner was an (unnamed) MP.