John Harris

Journalist & Author

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Could Boris Johnson’s explosive election strategy work?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Anushka Asthana hears from the Guardian’s John Harris on how the chaos in Westminster looks to people in towns around the UK. Also today: Gaby Hinsliff on accusations of cronyism in Theresa May’s honours list

Having lost his majority in parliament, Boris Johnson has been forced into a corner. He will be compelled by law to seek a Brexit extension from the EU unless a deal can be agreed before the end of October – and parliament has denied him the chance to hold an election before the Halloween deadline. It’s been a rocky time in Westminster for the new prime minister, but opinion polls show his bedraggled Conservative party extending its lead over Labour. So what’s going on?

The Guardian columnist John Harris joins Anushka Asthana to discuss how the chaos in Westminster looks from towns around the UK. His video series Anywhere But Westminster is now in its 10th year as he travels the country taking the political temperature. He says disillusionment with Westminster politics has only grown and a ‘people versus parliament’ election as framed by Downing Street could well resonate.

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Anywhere but Westminster | ’All this has to stop’: our real Brexit crisis – video

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Away from the drama in London, what’s actually  going on? In Wigan, Bury, Manchester, Nuneaton and Macclesfield, John Harris and John Domokos find confusion and weariness about Brexit and fury at the so-called coup – as well as homelessness, hunger and the deep roots of the UK’s current meltdown in what Anywhere but Westminster began chronicling 10 long years ago  

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Britain is facing a stark choice. So why are so many people tuning out? | John Harris

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Away from Brexit and the Tory melodrama, I’ve found a mood of weariness and disconnection. Yet its causes explain where we are

As parliament tumbled through last week’s drama, I was in the north-west of England, trying to divine the public mood. (What we found is about to appear in the Guardian’s Anywhere But Westminster video series.) I spent a lot of time in Bury, the large town 12 miles to the north of Manchester whose two constituencies recently returned Labour MPs, although Bury North was held by the Tories between 2010-17. The previous year, 54% of voters in the wider metropolitan borough had supported Brexit.

Though it was not hard to find people whose belief in leaving the EU remains undimmed, the prevailing mood seemed to mix weariness with disconnection, and a sense that Westminster’s convulsions were just one more story of crisis and chaos. “I’m just confused,” one woman told me. “I’ve stopped watching any of it.” One man folded both the Brexit mess and the loss of his job as a refuse collector into a much wider story – of cuts to the borough council (which, since 2010, has lost 61% of its annual budget) and the collapse of Bury football club, a woeful example of a beloved local institution ruined by financial mismanagement and mountains of debt.

Related: Sajid Javid refuses to rule out Tory deal with Nigel Farage

Related: The three questions that will decide the next general election | Jonathan Freedland

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This reckless confrontation with parliament is just what millions of voters want | John Harris

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

The forces lining up to oppose Johnson’s proroguing must find a way to win over those who have lost faith in representative democracy

And so one of the longest running dramas in British political history reaches yet another act. Some of the cast are locked into much the same roles as ever: Gina Miller is once again striding off to the courts; the great urban remain armies are turning out with their homemade placards, while the People’s Vote campaign sends out emails signed by Michael Heseltine; front-rank Tory politicians are apparently prepared to trade in whatever faint principles they once claimed to hold dear, in the hope of holding their party together, whatever the price.

Other characters seem to be changing. Jeremy Corbyn and his aides may have belatedly discovered the art of reaching out to people beyond their inner circle. Militant Labourites who have mostly affected indifference about Brexit and told us that parliament was a rat’s nest of ruling class interests stuffed full of centrists are suddenly barging their way to the front, suddenly convinced that the traditions of representative democracy might actually be worth defending.

The idea that senior politicians break the rules and do whatever they want is, to use a modern phrase, priced in

Related: Parliament had failed on Brexit long before this prorogation | Vernon Bogdanor

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Want to see the future? Take a trip on Wales’ model railway | John Harris

Monday, August 19th, 2019

The Heart of Wales line offers much more than beautiful scenery. It shows ‘social rail’ can transform communities

As the first hints of an autumnal chill chime with a revived sense of Brexit dread, this may not seem the best time to talk about hopeful glimmers of the future. To do so with reference to Britain’s railways, moreover, might look like lunacy, given the summer’s run of headlines – about power cuts, the apparently awful new sleeper service from London to Scotland and, last week, the announcement of yet another round of fare rises. But a fortnight ago the experience of travelling through spectacular countryside on single-carriage trains filled me with an optimism I have not felt for some time, and a sense of the possibilities that still lurk beneath our national nightmare.

With my dad and my 10-year-old daughter, I was on the Heart of Wales line, a 120-mile, mostly single-track route that runs between Shrewsbury and Swansea. As well as six tunnels and two glorious viaducts, there are 29 stops, 16 of which are so-called “request” stations, meaning that passengers who want to use them must either tell the conductor or, if they are getting on, make themselves visible as the train comes into view (you basically just have to stand on the platform, though jumping up and down adds to the fun).

Related: 10 classic UK trips by public transport

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