John Harris

Journalist & Author

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Ignore the hype over big tech. Its products are mostly useless | John Harris

Monday, May 21st, 2018

It’s years since Silicon Valley gave us a game-changer. Instead, from curing disease to colonies on Mars, we’re fed overblown promises

Back in 1999, Google hit 1bn searches a year. Wifi began to make an impact about two years later. Thanks to the pioneers of Facebook and Twitter, the age of mass social media dawned between 2004 and 2006 – and non-stop posting, messaging and following was soon enabled by the iPhone, launched in 2007. These things have changed the world and, in hindsight, the way they became ubiquitous had a powerful sense of inevitability. But the revolution they represented is old now, and nothing comparable has come along for more than a decade.

Despite this, a regular ritual of hype and hysteria is now built into the news cycle. Every now and again, at some huge auditorium, a senior staff member at one of the big firms based in northern California – ordinarily a man – will take the stage dressed in box-fresh casualwear, and inform the gathered multitudes of some hitherto unimagined leap forward, supposedly destined to transform millions of lives. (There will be whoops and gasps in response, and a splurge of media coverage – before, in the wider world, a palpable feeling of anticlimax sets in.)

Related: Social media spying is turning us into a stalking society | Keza MacDonald

Related: Has dopamine got us hooked on tech?

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A warning to the Tories: Britain’s true-blue suburbs have turned liberal | John Harris

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

From Trafford to Kingston upon Thames, our affluent areas are becoming more diverse and progressive. Theresa May’s monochrome retro-politics has little appeal for them

Two weeks ago there was a small earthquake on the southern edge of Greater Manchester. The Tories lost control of the borough of Trafford, the “island of blue in a sea of red”, whose supposedly ingrained Conservatism has long been highlighted by its selective school system. Labour gained four seats – but in the detailed Trafford results, there was something arguably even more seismic. In the affluent suburb of Altrincham, where the senior Tory backbencher Graham Brady has his constituency home, two victorious Green party candidates ended a Conservative dominance that used to seem as natural as the weather. This means that, having already watched Trafford vote 58% for remain, this most Eurosceptic, Thatcherite, grammar-school supporting of MPs now shares the local air with representatives of a politics that sits at the opposite end of just about every political spectrum you could think of.

David Cameron, George Osborne and their circle bigged up diversity and liberal values. Then came the referendum result

Related: Finchley: few seats can boast such stark differences in wealth | Rafael Behr

Related: Black flight: how England’s suburbs are changing colour | Hugh Muir

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May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

A Stone Roses album, a Hari Kunzru novel, a Gucci ad campaign … 50 years after the events of May 1968, our writer reflects on how the ideas and energy of that moment live on today

We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is still enough to make the simple phrase “May 1968” crackle with excitement – even if you were not around when les évenéments took place. I was born in 1969, but what happened in France and beyond retains a magnetic allure.

They exude a deeply romantic sense of ordinary reality somehow being suspended

Related: Archive: Paris students in savage battles – 1968

When people were drawn into a new Labour party by Corbyn, their links to the politics of 40 years before became clear

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‘Essentially, the monarchy is corrupt’ – will republicanism survive Harry and Meghan?

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

The campaign group Republic is committed to bringing down the House of Windsor, despite a wedding that may deepen the public’s emotional bond with the royals. Is it right to argue that this soap opera is less popular than people think?

On a scorchingly hot Saturday lunchtime in Leeds, the varied strands of the British left have gathered outside the city’s art gallery for their annual May Day parade. They are all here: the Labour party, the Communist party, the Socialist party, a smattering of trade unions, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and a handful of vegans chalking slogans on the paving stones. Meanwhile, under a green gazebo adorned with the tagline “End the Reign”, activists from a radical organisation that resists any left/right stereotyping are setting up their stall and hoping for a decent couple of hours’ business.

On a trestle table, they have arranged a handful of laminated blowups of newspaper articles, mostly from the Guardian, about Prince Harry being interviewed by police about the killing of rare birds, the Queen’s £82m income and the “black spider letters” – named after Prince Charles’s eccentric handwriting – that revealed the future king’s efforts to influence some of the policies of the last Labour government. The basic point all this bumf is intended to illustrate is presented in a four-page A5 leaflet. “Monarchy must go,” it says, explaining why having a hereditary head of state “goes against every democratic principle”, as well as claiming that looking after the royals costs the public purse £334m a year.

We’ve got to start from somewhere, and that’s what we’re trying to do – plant seeds in people’s minds

If corruption is the abuse of public office for personal gain, that is what the monarchy does

Related: I wouldn’t go to Harry and Meghan’s pay-as-you-go bash. It’s pure meanness | Suzanne Moore

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‘Essentially, the monarchy is corrupt’ – can republicanism survive the Harry and Meghan effect?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

The campaign group Republic is committed to bringing down the House of Windsor, despite a wedding that may deepen the public’s emotional bond with the royals. Is it right to argue that this soap opera is less popular than people think?

On a scorchingly hot Saturday lunchtime in Leeds, the varied strands of the British left have gathered outside the city’s art gallery for their annual May Day parade. They are all here: the Labour party, the Communist party, the Socialist party, a smattering of trade unions, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and a handful of vegans chalking slogans on the paving stones. Meanwhile, under a green gazebo adorned with the tagline “End the Reign”, activists from a radical organisation that resists any left/right stereotyping are setting up their stall and hoping for a decent couple of hours’ business.

On a trestle table, they have arranged a handful of laminated blowups of newspaper articles, mostly from the Guardian, about Prince Harry being interviewed by police about the killing of rare birds, the Queen’s £82m income and the “black spider letters” – named after Prince Charles’s eccentric handwriting – that revealed the future king’s efforts to influence some of the policies of the last Labour government. The basic point all this bumf is intended to illustrate is presented in a four-page A5 leaflet. “Monarchy must go,” it says, explaining why having a hereditary head of state “goes against every democratic principle”, as well as claiming that looking after the royals costs the public purse £334m a year.

We’ve got to start from somewhere, and that’s what we’re trying to do – plant seeds in people’s minds

If corruption is the abuse of public office for personal gain, that is what the monarchy does

Related: I wouldn’t go to Harry and Meghan’s pay-as-you-go bash. It’s pure meanness | Suzanne Moore

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