Joan Smith

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For other people named Joan Smith, see Joan Smith (disambiguation).
Joan Alison Smith
Joan Smith 01.jpg
Joan Smith
Born (1953-08-27) 27 August 1953 (age 63)
Nationality British
Alma mater University 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 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 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; she has travelled extensively and this is reflected in her articles. 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.[2]

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. She repeated a claim that she has persistently adhered to in her writings that the press is misogynistic.[citation needed]

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,[3] and the 2013 Ghouta attacks using chemical weapons, she has called for military invention.[4]

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. Her work of non-fiction, Down with the Royals (Biteback) appeared in 2015.[5]

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 the British Humanist Association.[6] In 2015, she was elected chair of Labour Humanists, a group promoting secularist policies and humanist values within the Labour party.[6]

Joan Smith was appointed the Executive Director of Hacked Off in late May 2014 in succession to Brian Cathcart.[7] Smith assumed the position in June,[8] but stood down in late June 2015 to return to her writing career full-time.[9]

Personal life[edit]

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

She had a relationship with Denis MacShane,[10] 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"[11] 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.[12][13][14]

In 2003 she was offered the MBE for her services to PEN,[15] but refused the award.[16]



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

Loretta Lawson novels[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Joan Smith "Children pay for our failure over Syria", The Independent on Sunday, 25 August 2013
  4. ^ Joan Smith "MPs are scarred by the war in Iraq", The Independent on Sunday, 1 September 2013
  5. ^ Ben East "Down With the Royals; What Have the Immigrants Ever Done For Us?; Why Women Need Quotas – review", The Observer, 5 April 2015
  6. ^ a b "Joan Smith". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Ian Burrell "Joan Smith becomes president of press reform campaign Hacked Off", The Independent, 29 May 2014
  8. ^ "Journalist and hacking victim Joan Smith to take over leadership of Hacked Off ", Press Gazette, 29 May 2014
  9. ^ "Joan Smith Steps Down to Concentrate on Writing Career". Hacked Off. 25 June 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  10. ^ Kay, Richard (3 December 2007). "Camilla is rallying the troops". Daily Mail. London. 
  11. ^ Smith, Joan (25 May 2009). "I am sick of my country and this hysteria over MPs". The Guardian. London. 
  12. ^ Maxine Frith (7 November 2012). "That ol' MacShane magic". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "MacShane jailed for expenses fraud". BBC News. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Queen -v- Denis MacShane" (PDF). Judiciary of England and Wales. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Joan Smith "I don't do retiring and deferential", Independent on Sunday, 11 April 2004
  16. ^ Joan Smith "Rushdie's gong almost made me ask for my MBE back", Independent on Sunday, 24 June 2007

External links[edit]