Joan Smith

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Joan Alison Smith
Joan Smith 01.jpg
Joan Smith
Born (1953-08-27) 27 August 1953 (age 66)
London, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Reading
Spouse(s)Francis Wheen (1985–1993)
Partner(s)Denis MacShane (2003–2010)

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.

Life and work[edit]

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.[1] 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[2] (Down with the Royals, 2015).[3] 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.

On 15 September 2010, Smith, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[4]

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,[5] and the 2013 Ghouta attacks using chemical weapons, she has called for military intervention.[6]

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"[1] and is a patron of The Iris Project. Smith is a supporter of the pressure group Republic and a Patron of Humanists UK.[7] In 2015, she was elected chair of Labour Humanists, a group promoting secularist policies and humanist values within the Labour party.[7] She is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society [8]

Joan Smith was appointed the Executive Director of Hacked Off in late May 2014 in succession to Brian Cathcart.[9] Smith assumed the position in June,[10] but stood down in late June 2015 to return to her writing career full-time.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Smith was married to journalist Francis Wheen between 1985 and 1993.

She had a relationship with Denis MacShane,[12] 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"[13] 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.

The couple subsequently split up in 2010 after seven years together; MacShane was subsequently sentenced to six months of imprisonment for submitting false invoices.[14][15][16]

In 2003 she was offered the MBE for her services to PEN,[17] but refused the award.[18]



  • Clouds of Deceit: Deadly Legacy of Britain's Bomb Tests. Faber. 1985. ISBN 0-571-13628-1.
  • Misogynies: Reflections on Myths and Malice. Faber. 1989. ISBN 0-571-15451-4.
  • Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction - A Book of Food. Chatto & Windus. 1996. ISBN 0-7011-6217-1.
  • Different for Girls: How Culture Creates Women. Vintage. 1998. ISBN 0-09-959411-0.
  • Moralities: How to End the Abuse of Money and Power in the 21st Century. Allen Lane. 2001. ISBN 0-7139-9409-6.

Loretta Lawson novels[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kirby, Graham (Autumn 2011). "Civitas: Iris Meets Joan Smith". Iris. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  2. ^ "I've lost count of the times I've been asked to provide 'a republican voice' by broadcasters, which is a very welcome change." Smith, Joan (27 July 2013). "This has been a good week to be a republican". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  3. ^ East, Ben (5 April 2015). "Down With the Royals; What Have the Immigrants Ever Done For Us?; Why Women Need Quotas – review". The Observer. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  5. ^ Smith, Joan (25 August 2013). "Children pay for our failure over Syria". The Independent on Sunday.
  6. ^ Smith, Joan (1 September 2013). "MPs are scarred by the war in Iraq". The Independent on Sunday.
  7. ^ a b "Joan Smith". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  8. ^ "National Secular Society Honorary Associates". National Secular Society. Retrieved 27 July 2019
  9. ^ Burrell, Ian (29 May 2014). "Joan Smith becomes president of press reform campaign Hacked Off". The Independent.
  10. ^ "Journalist and hacking victim Joan Smith to take over leadership of Hacked Off". Press Gazette. 29 May 2014. Archived from the original on 29 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Joan Smith Steps Down to Concentrate on Writing Career". Hacked Off. 25 June 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  12. ^ Kay, Richard (3 December 2007). "Camilla is rallying the troops". Daily Mail. London.
  13. ^ Smith, Joan (25 May 2009). "I am sick of my country and this hysteria over MPs". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Frith, Maxine (7 November 2012). "That ol' MacShane magic". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  15. ^ "MacShane jailed for expenses fraud". BBC News. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  16. ^ "The Queen -v- Denis MacShane" (PDF). Judiciary of England and Wales. 23 December 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  17. ^ Smith, Joan (11 April 2004). "I don't do retiring and deferential". The Independent on Sunday.[dead link]
  18. ^ Smith, Joan (24 June 2007). "Rushdie's gong almost made me ask for my MBE back". The Independent on Sunday.

External links[edit]