John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for the ‘Guardian RSS’ Category

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Labour can effect positive change, but not while its internal politics are so toxic | John Harris

Monday, July 15th, 2019

The party urgently needs to dispense with fringe views and face a post-Brexit reality dominated by the right

After a long tumble into disgrace and confusion that dates back well over a year, the story playing out at the top of the Labour party increasingly seems to be so dreadful that it defies belief. Jeremy Corbyn is doing a very good impression of someone who would rather be anywhere else. The party’s supposed leap forward on Brexit policy seems to have resulted in a stance not quite as bamboozling as the one it replaced, but it is still surrounded by unanswered questions; the leadership’s dearth of collective energy as the agenda of a Boris Johnson government takes shape is miserable to behold. Obviously, the people at the top have other things on their minds. Woven into everything is the ever-widening story about antisemitism, which now includes signifiers for almost every aspect of the party’s malaise – from the presence in the party of hateful attitudes towards Jewish people, through allegations of the awful treatment of young party staffers by powerful people at the top, to the sense of any sensitivity and seriousness now being drowned out by the familiar sound of belligerence and faction-fighting.

All too often, anti-imperialists seem to keep the company of very rum people indeed

Related: End the antisemitism soap opera, Emily Thornberry tells Labour

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Want to know what a Boris Johnson government would look like? I have just the book | John Harris

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Among the would-be PM’s backers are the authors of Britannia Unchained, and their vision of deregulated Britain is terrifying

Seven years ago, a group of Conservative MPs who had taken their parliamentary seats in 2010 brought out a slim manifesto for the future of Britain titled Britannia Unchained. Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Liz Truss appeared to speak with one voice: that of unabashed Thatcherites, convinced that hacking back tax and regulation and fixating on the demands of “business” was as appropriate for the 21st-century UK as it supposedly had been for the crisis-plagued Britain of the 1970s.

Some of the text was so provocative that it read like trolling. “The British are among the worst idlers in the world,” read one passage. “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.” To even start to compete with the rising economies of India, China and Brazil, said the authors, we need to avenge the “dependency culture” and “stop indulging in irrelevant debates about sharing the pie between manufacturing and services, the north and the south, women and men”. They advised fellow Conservatives to double down on austerity, and maintain their faith in old-fashioned laissez-faire economics.

Related: Here’s Tory Brexiteers’ real plan for 2019: a leaner, meaner Britain | Tim Bale

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Why is cocaine washing up on the beaches of Fiji? – podcast

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

A multibillion-dollar operation involving cocaine and methamphetamines is having a major impact on islands in the Pacific. Kate Lyons travelled to Fiji to investigate. Plus: John Harris on Facebook’s cryptocurrency

Last year, 120 bricks of cocaine, each worth thousands of dollars, washed up on the beaches of remote islands in Fiji. With traffickers increasingly using the islands as a staging post in the supply of drugs from central America to Australia and New Zealand, Fijian police have found themselves on the frontline of an illicit multibillion-dollar industry.

The Guardian’s Kate Lyons tells Anushka Asthana about the impact it has had on Fiji, which appears ill-equipped to handle the new reality of drug addiction on the islands or the trade’s wider societal effects.

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All hail the hyperleaders – the bellicose insurgents using the web to seize control | John Harris

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Boris Johnson longs to be one of the new breed of politicians, backed by an online ‘superbase’. But he is falling short

Back in the far-off days of Occupy and the Arab spring, we were told that the political future would be leaderless, “horizontal” – and defined by the egalitarian promise of social networks. But more than ever, any chance of political success now depends on charismatic, one-person leadership, and the crucial online currency of celebrity.

On the left, this is the age of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On the right are Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini and the other figureheads of reactionary populism, whose most grimly fascinating example is probably Narendra Modi of India. All of these individuals present themselves as people from outside their countries’ establishments, and draw their energy from vast numbers of devoted supporters who gather online. In his own way, Boris Johnson clearly fancies his chances of becoming one of them. But more of that in a moment.

Their names are ‘repeated in social media and turned into hashtags, all of which becomes a rallying point for militancy’

Related: The Five Star experiment has failed us. Now Italy needs real political change | Francesco Grillo

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If Facebook or Google create their own currency, they can control our lives | John Harris

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Facebook’s Libra is the last thing the world needs – big tech’s use of our data threatens to intrude even on financial transactions

Dystopian fiction – from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange to Russell T Davies’s spectacular recent BBC1 series Years and Years – is usually intended to take elements of the present and then imagine a future in which they have become inescapable, so as to warn us of what might already be in our midst.

But the 21st century is challenging this technique in one bracing sense: the way the world now seems to race beyond the wildest aspects of our collective imagination before we have even started to think about what might come next. Consider last week’s news about Facebook, and the fact that three years of corporate disgrace – and rising noise from legislators about bringing the tech giant to heel – have yet to slow its terrifying quest to insinuate its workings into every area of our lives. Now, in a move that could have been taken from a futuristic novel, it wants to create nothing less than a new global currency.

Facebook will know the people and companies with whom its users have financially interacted, and that is likely to only be the start

What is Libra?

Related: Facebook co-founder: Libra currency could give firms excess power

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