John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for May, 2014

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If this was the rejection election, where does mainstream politics go? | Guardian panel

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Establishment parties in Britain and across the EU are facing an unprecedented challenge after this week’s results. Our writers examine the reasons and consider what lies ahead for Europe’s democracies Continue reading…

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If this was the rejection election, where does mainstream politics go?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Establishment parties in Britain and across the EU are facing an unprecedented challenge after this week’s results. Our writers examine the reasons and consider what lies ahead for Europe’s democracies Continue reading…

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Ukip’s success is no false dawn it’s time to stop sneering | John Harris

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

The local election results show that Nigel Farage’s party is a force to be reckoned with, and the two-party system in crisis

Over the past week or so in the wake of Nigel Farage’s supposedly disastrous LBC interview and as politicians and pundits queued up to accuse his party of being racist something interesting began to emerge. It was almost as unpleasant as some of the views of the Ukip leader and the out-there candidates who were crash-landing in the news a collective outbreak of sneering, which started to transcend the party itself and blur into a generalised mockery of anyone minded to support it. You could see it most clearly in the rash of satirical(ish) #WhyImVotingUkip tweets that are piling up even now (eg "Because our true British maypoles are set to be completely replaced by foreign gay Poles within 5 years" or "Because I’m uneducated,uncultured, white and old") and it’s not pretty: an apparent belief that to vote UKIP is to be an idiot of some description, either bigoted or duped, and worthy of little more than contempt.

If you remain of that opinion, you should stop reading and go somewhere else. As the local election results come in and Ukip’s numbers continue to look remarkable, the rest of us should maybe pause for thought and realise that something rather sobering is afoot, as happened in the 2012 county council elections, only more so. If a party is averaging 47% of the vote in a Labour stronghold such as Rotherham, toppling Tories from their perches in crucial Conservative territory and apparently heading towards first place in the European contest, something important is obviously afoot. Moreover, if people are supporting Ukip in such large numbers even after the media’s massed guns have been rattling at it for weeks it is probably time to drop all the sneering and think about why.

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On the election trail in Plymouth: ‘Farage is a character, isn’t he?’

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The Devon city has long been split between Labour and the Tories, but Ukip is benefitting from growing Euroscepticism

The door of the bungalow swings open, and the woman who answers it she works for Plymouth city council so will not give her name looks indifferently at a Labour party leaflet. "I’m a grafter," she says. "You’re not doing nothing for me."

Then her husband appears. Brian Wilson, a 68-year-old retired council cleaner and lifelong Labour voter, is clearly annoyed. "Mr Farage is the only one telling the truth about Europe," he says. In vain, a solitary Labour party canvasser tries to start a forensic discussion about Ukip’s free market economics and Farage’s belief in flat taxes but it sounds like emotion and raw anger being met with clinical policy wonkery, to nobody’s great benefit. And so Wilson carries on: Ed Miliband, he says, "isn’t strong enough"; he "definitely wouldn’t vote Tory"; he thinks health service cuts are linked to immigration and because the EU sits under the last issue, there’s only one box in which he should put his cross.

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England’s identity crisis: what does it mean to be English?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The pending Euro and Scottish elections are raising tumultuous debates about English identity and governance. So what do these uncertain times mean for the country’s future?

Farage fails to attend Croydon rally as Ukip carnival erupts
On the election trail: ‘Farage is a character, isn’t he?’
Billy Bragg, Frank Field and others on national identity
Quiz: BNP or Ukip who said what?

Let’s face it: we are living through the most important phase of British politics indeed, British society since Margaret Thatcher’s first government. Everything seems uncertain: the result of the next election, the long-term fate of all three main parties, the reputation of such British institutions as the BBC, the police, and the NHS and the future of the United Kingdom itself.

The relentless modern news media has a tendency to make even the most convulsive events look like just another item on the "breaking news" ticker. But the importance of the debate about Scottish independence, which is reverberating throughout the whole of the UK, is clearly massive. Recent polls have put the pro-independence side only a few points behind the "no" camp.

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