John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for August, 2015


Labour leadership hustings: Guardian panellists’ verdict

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Rafael Behr, John Harris and Anne Perkins parse the contenders’ positions following Thursday evening’s hustings

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We’re ignoring the crisis of our most democratic public transport: buses

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Bus travel in London may be in rude health, but across the country Tory cuts have led to a massacre of routes and services – leaving thousands of low-income passengers isolated

Tuscany, Schmuscany. On Sunday I got back from a week’s holiday in Whitby, the North Yorkshire fishing port whose craggy streets and cosy harbour give it the feel of a redoubt from the modern world. Among the best bits of our family trip was a day’s walking, book-ended by journeys on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a lovingly maintained steam line that runs from Whitby to the market town of Pickering, and was used in the first Harry Potter film. It took us 45 minutes to travel less than 10 miles, but that was kind of the point: time slowed down, and the whole experience took on a beautifully dreamy quality.

The NYMR is a great thing, but it also points up one of postwar Britain’s greatest tragedies. The line on which the steam trains run was a victim of the Beeching axe, the great hacking-down of the UK rail network that resulted in the closure of over 2,000 stations and the loss of nearly 70,000 jobs. As of 1965, Beeching also ensured that Whitby lost its rail link to nearby Scarborough, and was left with only a snail’s-pace line to Middlesbrough. Fifty years on, with the town reinvented as a modern tourist destination, the lack of train services looks like an embodiment of the serial stupidities of transport policy, not least when you’ve been locked into long queues on the roads that ferry people there from the motorway.

The bus remains the most democratic form of transport (no first class here), and does things that trains simply cannot

Related: How Beeching got it wrong about Britain’s railways

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Labour leadership election – Politics Weekly podcast

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

To the horror of the Labour establishment, Jeremy Corbyn has shot out of backbench obscurity to become the shock favourite for Labour leader. What will a Corbyn win mean for Labour and British politics? Continue reading…

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Assisted dying is not the answer to old age. It could be the best time of our lives | John Harris

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Gill Pharoah preferred to die rather than grow old. But I don’t share this vision of ageing

“I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said, ‘I am not getting old. I do not think old age is fun.’ I know that I have gone just over the hill now. It is not going to start getting better.”

Gill Pharaoh, a 75-year-old former palliative care nurse, said those words to the Sunday Times not long before she left her home in north London for Switzerland. Anyone who has paid even fleeting attention to the news over the past few days will know what happened next: after a final meal on the banks of the river Rhine, at the Lifecircle assisted suicide clinic in Basel, she ended her life.

Related: Choosing to live should not mean living with indignity in old age | Lucy Webster

The word ‘burden’ is now a staple of most coverage of our ageing population

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