John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for May, 2014

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‘Goodnight Britain’: rethinking England

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

What does the future hold for the union? Four thinkers Billy Bragg, Ben Carrington, Maureen Duffy and Frank Field share their vision

Singer-songwriter, author and political activist, and resident of Dorset. Published his very English memoir The Progressive Patriot in 2006. Once sang that he wasn’t looking for a new England. He is now.

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Spend, spend, spend: the chaotic world of Michael Gove’s free schools | John Harris

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

While the crisis of primary places mounts, vast sums of public cash which may well be wasted are being chucked at the education secretary’s pet project

A strange coincidence, isn’t it, that so many Liberal Democrats are suddenly howling about Michael Gove’s education policies less than two weeks from elections in which they face likely wipe-out? But let’s set that aside: cynicism is never the most constructive impulse; and besides, what the Lib Dems are affecting to be so dismayed about is worthy of their pain.

The free schools programme may have started in a flurry of attractive talk about parents being integrally involved in new schools and the need to move faster than the often sclerotic pace of local government. But it seems to be turning into a veritable monster thanks not just to the cosy relationships between Whitehall and the vested interests we must now call "education providers" but also to a department that seems to be pursuing its visions at all costs.

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Generation rent: who’s listening?

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

The number of private renters has now surpassed those in social housing for the first time, making them a political force to be reckoned with. But not everyone is convinced

Fiona Elsted lives with her husband and three children aged 11, eight and six on the south side of Colchester in Essex. En route from the railway station, the taxi driver who takes me to her house does his best to position her neighbourhood within the complicated matrix that is the English class system. "It’s quite a posh area," he says. "Not posh posh, though."

When we get there, I understand what he means. Elsted’s home is a semi-detached three-bedroomer Edwardian, by the look of it that suggests a solid kind of middle-class comfort (Zoopla puts the average house-price here at just under £250,000). She and her husband work at the University of Essex. Everything fits, apart from one crucial detail: they rent rather than own their home, and to some people, that distinction is enough to push them out of any halfway "posh" demographic and into a very different social category.

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