John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for October, 2014

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The Green party surge and why its coming from Bristol and all points west

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Polls this week put the Greens on 8%, overtaking the Lib Dems for the first time in a decade and providing a clear challenge to Ukip in the east

As a display of political activism in difficult circumstances, it looks very noble: in the midst of grim weather, a dozen or so members of the Green party, gathered around a street stall in the middle of Bristol, doing their best to make the case for a £10 minimum wage by communing with people whose main priority is to get back indoors, as quickly as possible.

Every now and again, however, someone stops for a chat. James Collins, 25, is working as a court usher for £7.50 an hour, and is returning to work clutching a baked potato in a plastic box. With no prompting, he lets rip about the Greens exclusion so far, anyway from plans for next years televised election debates. Im just annoyed that Ukip are included, and theyre not, he says. The Greens got an MP ages ago, didnt they? And it wasnt even in a byelection. The whole things a joke.

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Dont dismiss public fears about migration as mere bigotry | John Harris

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

David Camerons angst over Ukip is pushing us towards an EU exit. We need a real debate on free movement

For some people it is all absolutely clear. By indicating that he will somehow try to limit migration to the UK from the rest of the European Union, David Cameron has moved closer than ever to embracing what we now call Brexit the British exit from the EU. In doing so, he has shown that he is in thrall to mad-eyed Tory Europhobes, who in turn are doing the work of those dastardly merchants of racist calypso, Ukip. In this view, the free movement of people is not just a fundamental part of our membership of the EU, but modernity writ large: anyone who questions it must be off their rocker.

In fact, the issue is a bit more complicated than that. Some elements of Tory posturing on Europe their manoeuvrings on human rights, for example say much more about them than the wider public. But free movement has not arrived in the foreground of politics solely because of Conservative loopiness. It is there thanks to the way that even a dysfunctional democracy such as ours works: because it is a huge issue, and millions dont like it. For the sake of Britain remaining in the EU, they will probably have to lump it, and this option will be by far the best for the country as a whole.

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Anger Is an Energy review John Lydon’s ‘life uncensored’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The ‘only truly terrifying singer rock’n'roll has ever known’ keeps it honest and defies his own stereotype

In Lipstick Traces, the brilliant "secret history of the 20th century" in which Greil Marcus placed punk rock at the end of a long tradition of subversion and sedition, the Sex Pistols were hailed as immeasurably more than just a four-piece rock group. "It doesn’t seem like a mistake to confuse their moment with a major event in history," Marcus wrote, and he identified one quality in particular that allowed them to acquire such significance. There was, he said, a "black hole" at the heart of their music, "a wilful lust for the destruction of values that no one could be comfortable with, and that was why, from the start, Johnny Rotten was perhaps the only truly terrifying singer rock’n'roll has ever known".

A quarter-century after those words were written, they seem rather quaint. In recent(ish) years, Rotten who has long since reverted to calling himself John Lydon has appeared in that ironically titled celebration of faded fame I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!, starred in an ad for Country Life butter, and hosted such examples of TV anarchy as John Lydon’s Megabugs and John Lydon’s Shark Attack. The Sex Pistols were last seen playing Las Vegas, and lending their name to a brand of unisex perfume ("fighting conformity and disregarding aromatic conventions, it leaves a fresh, restless bite of lemon, sharpened and intensified by a defiant black pepper"). And now comes Lydon’s second memoir, following 1994’s Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs: a slightly straighter example of the great seasonal genre-cum-publishing ritual that is celebrity autobiography, which this year sees Lydon pitched against John Cleese, Stephen Fry and Westlife’s Shane Filan.

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This way to the Brexit: what would happen if Britain left the EU?

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Ukip has an MP, and a British exit from Europe once a far-right fantasy looks likelier than ever before. So what would it look like? And would our passports turn blue?

Welcome, once again, to the messy and uncertain future of British politics. On the Essex coast, the UK Independence Party has just won its first parliamentary byelection; in Greater Manchester, they have come within a whisker of snatching a hitherto safe seat from Labour. Having once warned the Conservatives against banging on about Europe, David Cameron leads a party that is arguably more obsessed about it than ever. And a new word has entered the political lexicon, which may soon become inescapable.

Brexit is shorthand for British exit from the European Union a possibility that is looking more realistic by the day. Ukip, after all, are in the midst of a seemingly endless political summer, while senior Conservative politicians such as Boris Johnson talk optimistically about life outside the clutches of Brussels. Should they win next years election, the Tories are pledged to follow a renegotiation of Britains membership with an in/out referendum that will supposedly materialise by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, a debate rages between two sides that do not just seem to be from opposed political traditions, but different planets.

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Clacton byelection: the main parties need to hear this roar of defiance | John Harris

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

From Clacton to Strood, only Ukip seems to speak to voters who feel abandoned, patronised and ignored

A fortnight or so ago, as part of the campaign for this weeks Clacton byelection, Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage addressed a public meeting. The hall where it was held is only a stones throw from Jaywick, the jumble of former holiday chalets and potholed streets that is reckoned to be the poorest council ward in England: on the face of it, a symbol of the kind of deep social problems that tend to be synonymous with political apathy. That night, though, about 900 people turned up.

Its said that Farage considers it the most extraordinary meeting hes ever experienced. Carswell, meanwhile, highlighted a perfect example of everything he says he is running against: a recent article by the Times columnist Matthew Parris, which reflected the occasional tendency of Tory-aligned media voices to have a pop at places progress has supposedly left behind a strange stance for a Conservative, but there we are.

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