John Harris

Journalist & Author

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Blame the scroungers. Blame the migrants. How Britain fell for austerity | John Harris

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

A swathe of public opinion has turned cruel. ‘They just don’t give a shit,’ a woman who’s been living on the streets told me

In January this year, I went on a Brexit trip to Dover. The main aim was to get a sense of what a no-deal exit from the EU would mean for the haulage trade, but while I was there I spent a long and cold afternoon wandering the seafront and town centre. Just near the white cliffs, on a jetty that seemed to form the last British land before the Channel, there was a dome tent, seemingly the property of someone who was homeless: an awful symbol of this country as a land of want and wilful neglect.

Later, in the centre of town, I met a woman who had been living on the streets for four years, having been repeatedly “sanctioned” and had her benefits stopped. The last time this had happened, she had been in hospital and failed to make it to the jobcentre, which caused her payments to be suspended for three months.

Johnson’s antics have a flavour of pre-revolutionary France. To hell with poverty: here is Mr Optimism with a chicken

Related: Boris Johnson says he’ll spend, but who will pay?

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Nicola Sturgeon: ‘If we crash out with no deal, Corbyn will be almost as responsible as May or Johnson’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Scotland’s first minister on her infamous doorstep encounter with the new PM, why the government’s Brexit plans are ‘catastrophic’ – and why people in England should move to Scotland

Early last week, for the briefest of moments, the tensions swirling around Scotland’s relationship with England and the deepening UK crisis of Brexit were perfectly symbolised by Boris Johnson’s arm.

Amid the angry noise of a crowd of demonstrators, Johnson was on the steps of Bute House (the Edinburgh residence of the Scottish first minister) exchanging the usual opening pleasantries with Nicola Sturgeon for the benefit of photographers and TV crews. Then came the moment when everyone had to go inside – whereupon Johnson rather condescendingly extended one of his upper limbs, with a view to escorting Sturgeon into her own HQ. She appeared to say something, whereupon the arm went down and Johnson awkwardly followed her in, a moment that inevitably went viral.

I think the abdication of leadership on the part of Jeremy Corbyn right now will be the stuff of history books

Related: Nicola Sturgeon warns Boris Johnson not to block independence vote

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Boris Johnson is channelling a punk ethos to force through Brexit. It could work | John Harris

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

The prime minister’s taboo-busting, provocative approach has potential popular appeal

“How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century.”

Those words were written by the Labour hero Aneurin Bevan, seven years after the end of the second world war and a decade before the arrival of the Beatles, but their power endures. Indeed, the imminence of Brexit and the entry into Downing Street of yet another moneyed Old Etonian prompts much the same question, though Britain’s current circumstances demand that it should be slightly rephrased. So, let us turn to the Irish writer Fintan O’Toole’s book Heroic Failure, which updates Bevan’s point.

Related: Boris Johnson ‘turbo-charging’ no-deal Brexit plans, say ministers

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Why you don’t hear Trump or Farage talking about the tech revolution | John Harris

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Protecting people against the chaos wreaked by automation should be a priority. But populists would rather talk about trade

This week’s nightmare is the arrival of Boris Johnson; the autumn brings the Brexit watershed. Soon after, the 2020 US election takes shape, compounding the sense that politics everywhere is in a state of complete unpredictability. All that is clear, perhaps, is that the forces gathered around Brexit, Donald Trump and the various brands of European populism still think things are going their way.

For some people, everything comes down to the failures of neoliberalism and its inbuilt globalisation, and the long aftershocks from the crash of 2008. Others, with very good reason, focus on racism and bigotry, and the spectacle of white men who are apparently convinced that their time at the top is about to come to a close and therefore lashing out. There are also people who seem to think that any sober, cause-and-effect explanations of a global crisis are impossible amid the mess: they tend to take refuge in rather specious ideas about “collective derangement” and national nervous breakdowns.

The ongoing transformation of production and consumption by computing power is everywhere

Related: Automation threatens 1.5 million workers in Britain, says ONS

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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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