John Harris

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Coronavirus live: passports ‘needed to keep England venues open’; Vietnam says city residents must get vaccine

Sunday, September 5th, 2021

England vaccines minister says passes needed for nightclubs and mass events; Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi residents must receive one dose by 15 September

Children will be able to overrule parental objections to them having Covid jabs if they are deemed to be able make competent decisions, according to the UK vaccine minster.

Nadhim Zahawi was by Times Radio how family disputes would be resolves if as expected the government goes ahead with a vaccination programme for 12- to 15-year-olds. He said:

The NHS, in terms of the school immunisation programme, is really well practised and versed in dealing with [this], whether it be the teenager, not wanting the jab or the other way around where the parents don’t want their child to receive jab and the teenager wants to receive it.

What you essentially do is make sure that the clinicians discuss this with the parents [and] with the teenager and if they are then deemed to be able to make a decision that is competent, then that decision will will go in the favour of what the teenager decides to do.

The proposal to make outdoor measures permanent is a welcome boost for the hospitality sector, its customers and local communities.

It has provided a vital lifeline to venues all over the country during an extraordinarily difficult period and allowing operators to provide extra outside seating has been a key driver of survival and recovery since reopening.

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In the chaos of Britain’s labour shortage, could workers forge better lives? | John Harris

Monday, August 30th, 2021

Our dysfunctional labour market was reliant on a pool of exploitable workers

Empty shelves, missing product lines and the rising sense of a country that may not be able to feed itself: despite still being underplayed by most of the media, the results of Britain’s labour shortages are now ubiquitous.

Fruit growers warn that their crops are simply being left to rot. For want of regular workers, meat-processing plants are set to employ prisoners. The shortage of lorry drivers means that McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes. After 18 months of misery and disruption, most of us seem to be responding with fatalistic shrugs, although the situation also brings to mind a cliched but pointed question: can you imagine the reaction if this was happening under a Labour government?

Related: So what’s so wrong with labour shortages driving up low wages? | Larry Elliott

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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Brexit and Covid have created the perfect moment for the politics of crackdown | John Harris

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

We feel besieged and imperilled, and the Johnson government is seizing the chance to weaken our most fundamental liberties

If you were wondering when the widely predicted post-Brexit dystopia might move beyond the imaginings of TV scriptwriters and into the real world, we suddenly seem to be a lot of the way there. Supermarket shelves are either understocked or completely empty. The populist loudmouths who now try to make the political weather have been taking aim in the past week at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and its supposedly “woke” lifesavers.

Meanwhile, the Johnson government’s descent into whip-crack law enforcement continues apace. Last week’s announcement of a new “crime reduction plan” was centred around the permanent relaxation of restrictions on “suspicionless” (in other words, often arbitrary) stop and search, which had a clear performative aspect: ministers blithely batting away the fact that black people are a staggering 18 times more likely to be searched than white people under these specific powers, presumably to demonstrate a wretched kind of toughness. Johnson also launched plans for chain gangs dressed in hi-vis jackets.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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To mask or not to mask? That shouldn’t be the question | John Harris

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

In shifting Covid risk to individuals in an already battered society, the British state has set the scene for countless futile conflicts

England has now entered the strangest phase to date of its Covid experience. Though the health secretary insisted, in a tweet he eventually deleted, that we must not “cower from” the virus, the contradiction between the lifting of restrictions and most epidemiological wisdom sits in the midst of our national life like a dull headache. The same prime minister who promised his ideological soulmates a new dawn of liberty is now embracing vaccine passports, and reportedly facing the prospect of defeat in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, references to “personal responsibility” have brought a new unease to everyday life, as the government reverts to type and does what Tory administrations usually do, transferring risk from the state to individuals.

Wearing a mask now feels a bit like putting on a badge. On what the rightwing press rather laughably called “freedom day”, I did some shopping at my local Asda, observed a masked-to-umasked ratio of about 70:30, and sensed – or thought I sensed – the crackle of judgment and mistrust, passing between those who were sticking with face coverings and those who had decided to go without. Two days later, I was in Stoke-on-Trent, where the ratio in a huge Tesco was more like 60:40 in favour of masking up. Despite announcements over the PA advising people to behave as if restrictions were still in place, the fact that some were sticking to the old rules while others were not felt like a matter of dull normality.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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A kind, inclusive England is stirring – and as usual, our politicians don’t get it | John Harris

Monday, July 19th, 2021

The aftermath of Euro 2020 shows there’s a better story to be told about a country too often defined by Brexit

Just under a fortnight ago, I watched England’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark in another country. I was in Wales. In the bar of a Swansea hotel, I took my pre-booked place next to an English guest apparently sent by central casting. There he was: as the great Billy Bragg sang, “one of those blokes / The sort who only laughs at his own jokes”, eating and drinking on his own but frantically yelling at the giant television screen even during the pre-match buildup. He booed Denmark’s national anthem and liberally used the C-word about the players in its team – but then mysteriously disappeared when England’s players took a knee. Once he returned, his performative belligerence worsened after he was asked to pipe down by the (Welsh) bar staff, and he soon left without paying his bill: an embodiment of the irate spirit of Albion, caught as ever between self-pity and arrogant fury, and apparently reduced to watching the match in his lonely room.

In the week or so since England’s climactic defeat by Italy, this mode of Englishness has once again passed into infamy, sped on its way by the behaviour of some fans at the championship final and the subsequent racist abuse of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka. The licence given to such bigotry by both the government and the rightwing press has now disappeared into the establishment memory hole – Boris Johnson denying having ever implicitly excused the booing of the England team, the Sun topping its front page with the priceless strapline, “Nation unites against racists”. But as absurd as they are, these things have happened because of this year’s most fascinating development: the unexpected entry into post-Brexit politics and culture of a collective cast of mind that is profoundly humane, inclusive and kind – not the kind of adjectives usually associated with 21st-century England, which is some token of how striking recent developments have been.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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