John Harris

Journalist & Author

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What happens when the jobs dry up in the new world? The left must have an answer | John Harris

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

We need to address the questions raised by rapid automation, and find new ways to redistribute power

If modern Britain has a defining problem, it boils down to an across-the-board failure to leave the past behind. Brexit, self-evidently, is a profoundly retrogressive project, helmed by Tory politicians split between continuity Thatcherites and devotees of a supposed one-nation Conservatism who still yearn for a quiet, sepia-tinted England. The latter are personified, in her own shaky way, by the prime minister. Labour, meanwhile, has a clear set of moral responses to an obvious social crisis, and the first stirrings of a convincing programme for government. But it, too, has a tendency to take refuge in fuzzy dreams of yesteryear: 1945, old flags and banners, the idea that a dependable job in a factory is still a byword for emancipation.

Related: Let’s wrench power back from the billionaires | Bernie Sanders

Related: Should we scrap benefits and pay everyone £100 a week?

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Rats, mould and broken furniture: the scandal of the UK’s refugee housing

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

The Home Office says that asylum seekers deserve ‘safe, habitable’ homes. What too many of them get is filth and squalor

The cramped upstairs box room was meant to be used by one of Duminda’s children, but it is not in a fit state. An old mattress is propped up against the wall, and behind it is an expanse of black-green mould. In the downstairs bathroom, there is similarly widespread damp, and a smell that suggests the problem is serious. “We worry about the kids’ health,” Duminda tells me.

He and his partner, Kriti, are both from Sri Lanka. If either of them were to return, he says, they would be at risk of violence and imprisonment. He received his last asylum refusal from the Home Office two years ago; she was turned down around the same time. They are now preparing a fresh claim, and anxiously waiting.

It is the responsibility of our Compass contractors to provide accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose

You can actually hear the rats, chewing and gnawing at the floorboards, and running around. And that’s scary

Related: How do you live on £36.95 a week? Asylum seekers on surviving on their allowance

They put me in a house with two people in each bedroom. No privacy. And in the winter, no heater

Related: ‘I want to study and play sport’ – a young asylum seeker in Britain, one year on

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Theresa May can rally her troops, but the Tory party is dying on its feet | John Harris

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The botched reshuffle is a short term fix for the Conservatives, who haven’t even begun to address the structural problems they face

In all the noise surrounding this week’s reshuffle, one sound in particular has been unmistakable: that of rising Tory angst about the party’s future. It might be strange to witness such self-doubt at the moment Britain’s departure from the EU looks set to realise so many Conservative dreams. But Brexit is perhaps one of those classic pyrrhic victories that cheers the troops while sowing the seeds of a seismic defeat that may lie just around the corner.

Yes, it is quite something that the Tories are still neck and neck with Labour in the polls, and they could still win the next election. But their position nonetheless suggests encroaching twilight, for reasons that run much deeper than the prime minister’s shortcomings, the fact that she is now on to her third work and pensions secretary in 18 months, or the way that Jeremy Hunt’s howling failures have been rewarded with even more responsibility.

Related: Toby Young jumped ship. But the toxic Tories’ culture war goes on | Owen Jones

The loudest elements of the Tory tribe speak a paranoid, backward-looking language, at odds with anything modern

Related: This tepid reshuffle will do little to revitalise the Tory rank-and-file | Andrew Gimson

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Take it from the insiders: Silicon Valley is eating your soul | John Harris

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Former Google and Facebook executives are sounding the alarm about the pervasive power of tech. Will we listen?

One source of angst came close to being 2017’s signature subject: how the internet and the tiny handful of companies that dominate it are affecting both individual minds and the present and future of the planet. The old idea of the online world as a burgeoning utopia looks to have peaked around the time of the Arab spring, and is in retreat.

If you want a sense of how much has changed, picture the president of the US tweeting his latest provocation in the small hours, and consider an array of words and phrases now freighted with meaning: Russia, bots, troll farms, online abuse, fake news, dark money.

Related: When Facebook asks if social media is bad for us, it’s time to listen | Nigel Kendall

Former Facebook president Sean Parker warned that it ‘literally changes your relationship with society, with each other’

Related: How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into evil | John Naughton

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The Tories are savaging libraries – and closing the book on social mobility | John Harris

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Since 2010, more than 478 libraries have closed in England, Wales and Scotland. It’s the old Tory con: talk up advancement, then attack the institutions that make it possible

If they weren’t already here, we’d have to invent them: public spaces, crammed with books, computers and information points, where events and meetings regularly take place, and children in particular get an early taste of the world beyond their own immediate experience.

Related: The UK no longer has a national public library system | Laura Swaffield

Related: No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

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