John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for July, 2014


Tesco and Tony Blair: two eras brought low by hubris | John Harris

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

New Labour and the supermarket rose to power together and, eerily entwined, fell victim to the same delusional thinking

Decades, it is sometimes said, transcend mere numbers. According to the late historian Arthur Marwick, the long 60s stretched from 1958 to 1974. Just to make things that bit more complicated, other people think the period that is shorthanded as the 50s might actually have begun in 1945 and ended in 1962.

The long 90s perhaps commenced with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, were seriously fractured by the events of 11 September 2001, and finally came to a close circa 2007. In between, in western Europe and the US at least, there was a giddy, amazingly superficial period that still looms large, not least at Westminster: our fortysomething politicians often seem to offer the promise that once our financial problems are out of the way, we might somehow be transported back to that era.

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Sleaford Mods: ‘Most days I’d only have enough money for a Mars bar and a can of Special Brew’

Friday, July 18th, 2014

They may be the gobbiest band in the UK just ask Miles Kane but there’s a political fury behind their angry missives

Jason Williamson decides the best place for our interview is a central Nottingham branch of Caffè Nero, where we start talking about the kind of music perhaps a little too soaked in classicism and pastiche for its own good. There follows a brief exchange about Miles Kane, the Wirral-born, Arctic Monkeys-associated, mod-pop solo artist much loved, as it turns out, by the woman who serves us. With a look of amused mischief, Williamson then reaches for his phone, and shows me a tweet he fired off to Kane when the latter bigged up Williamson’s group, and tried to become one of their followers. It informs Kane: "This music was born out of a hate for pretenders like you. You can either leave gracefully or I will block you."

As an example of Sleaford Mods’ essential view of the world, this is illuminating though so are no end of other comments on the band’s Twitter feed (from this year’s Glastonbury weekend: "I thought the dog had shit in my hair but then realised Kasabian were fucking playing"), and the range of targets in Williamson’s lyrics: among them Kate Moss’s husband Jamie Hince of the Kills, Oasis, a former member of the acid house-era flash-in-the-pans Candy Flip, and no end of bêtes noires known only to him and his friends. I ask him an obvious question: are his words and indication of what it is like in his head? "The rage?" he wonders. "Yeah. That’s why Sleaford Mods is. Definitely."

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The third Scotland won’t be denied – whatever the referendum result | John Harris

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Outside Scotland’s two dominant parties a group of radical young voices is blazing a trail for a fresh kind of left politics

The session is titled Seven minutes to Yes. Seven supporters of the organisation Women for Independence take 420 seconds each to explain why they will be voting yes in September’s referendum, by talking not just about politics and ideals but about their own personal stories.

What follows is often very moving: accounts of nitty-gritty experience spanning two or three generations that dovetail into ideas of equality and social justice. One woman, Selma Rahman, reaches into her pockets for a pair of scissors and her Labour membership card, and then cuts up a symbol of at least three decades of loyalty in protest, she says, at what she sees as Labour’s tolerance of the social model that has given us food banks. This is one of many reminders not just of the human foundations on which politics ought to be based but of the kind of raw humanity that is sorely lacking south of the border.

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