John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for December, 2015

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Coldplay: how can something so banal be so powerful? | John Harris

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

There is a context to the band’s huge success. The worse life gets, the more they seek to reassure us

One should always hesitate before quoting the words from pop songs. Obviously, lyrics are not written as poetry; in the absence of music, even Bob Dylan’s words can occasionally seem like the work of a chump. But sometimes the temptation becomes overwhelming.

Take, for example, Up & Up, the closing song on the latest Coldplay album, A Head Full Of Dreams, which came out on 4 December. Its second verse runs as follows: “Lying in the gutter, aiming for the moon / Trying to empty out the ocean with a spoon … How come people suffer, how come people part? / How come people struggle, how come people break your heart?” I don’t know what that riot of mixed metaphor and cheap sentiment means; its chief author, Chris Martin, probably doesn’t either. But whatever: as the song tumbles to its climax and massed voices assure us that “we’re gonna get it together”, you can hear the stuff of assured international success.

Related: Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams review – a failure to commit to pop

Related: How I came to terms with my Coldplay fandom

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From lost and lonely to safe and busy: the refugees helped by City of Sanctuary

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Sabir Zazai was 23, disoriented and amazed to be still alive after being trafficked from Afghanistan to Britain. Sent to Coventry, he began to make progress thanks to an organisation that helps settle refugees and raise awareness of their plight

Click here to donate to our appeal

On 18 December 1999, Sabir Zazai, then 23, arrived in Britain as a refugee from Afghanistan. He is still not sure how exactly he made it to the UK, dressed in only a T-shirt and trousers, with the merest of possessions. “The way we were trafficked – we didn’t see much,” he says.

Related: The media needs to tell the truth on migration, not peddle myths | Alberto Nardelli

Related: City of Sanctuary: how Paddington Bear is helping pupils welcome refugees

Related: The message from our appeal is clear: we stand with the refugees

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Jeremy Corbyn praises Stop the War coalition as vital democratic force

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Corbyn defends anti-war group as its chairman hits out at suggestion that Labour leader needs to distance himself

Jeremy Corbyn has hailed Stop the War as “one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times”, and accused the coalition’s critics of trying to close down debate.

The Labour leader gave a staunch defence of Stop the War at its Christmas fundraising dinner on Friday night, after calls from some figures within the party for him to withdraw from the event and cut links with the group.

Related: Stop the War chair Andrew Murray: ‘Everyone sees friends at Christmas. But Jeremy, apparently, has a problem’

Related: Jeremy Corbyn wins parliamentary beard of the year by a whisker

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Stop the War chair Andrew Murray: ‘Everyone sees friends at Christmas. But Jeremy, apparently, has a problem’

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Tristram Hunt’s definitely not going, Brian Eno definitely is – but it’s Jeremy Corbyn’s planned attendance at Stop the War’s party that has churned up the most fuss. As the pressure group comes back into the spotlight, its chair explains how it needs to adjust – and why airstrikes on Syria are wrong

The morning I sit down for a long chat with Andrew Murray, the chair of the Stop the War coalition, British politics is a mere 36 hours away from what some people would have you believe is one of the most controversial events of 2015.

It is scheduled to happen at a Turkish restaurant near Southwark tube station, and will involve food, the presence of the former Roxy Music member Brian Eno, and music from one Dmitri van Zwanenberg – according to the promotional blurb, a “busker with a yellow violin”. But what has sent certain MPs and journalists into a lather is the joint fact that all the fun is aimed at raising funds for Stop the War, and that the guest of honour is Jeremy Corbyn – until recently the holder of Murray’s role in Stop the War, but now leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

Related: Jeremy Corbyn determined to attend Stop the War event

Related: Stop the War faces a coalition of critics | Letters from Peter Tatchell and others

Related: Green MP Caroline Lucas steps down from Stop the War Coalition role

Related: UK’s ‘biggest peace rally’

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Corbyn’s ‘new politics’ is neither hateful nor pure: it’s complicated | John Harris

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

While some in Labour fear entryism and the spectre of Militant, within Momentum itself there are tensions and contradictions that may yet explode

Depending on who you listen to, Momentum is either the cutting edge of 21st century progressive activism, or a Corbynite conspiracy to take over the Labour party, eject any errant MPs, and commence the age of copper-bottomed British socialism, following the new leader’s example.

According to its online blurb, the group is intended to be “a network of people and organisations that will continue the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy’s campaign”. There are 150,000 names on its email list. It has four full-time staff and pledges of funding from trade unions. Branches are forming all over the country; exactly what they will do, and how they may or may not connect with the Labour party, are currently matters of discussion and debate. But after the torrid events of recent weeks – the Labour split on Syria, endless explosions of nastiness, and all that talk of deselecting “pro-war” MPs – certain people’s understanding of what Momentum is up to now drips with disdain and fear.

Related: Corbyn’s Momentum group moves to block influence of hard-left parties

Related: The revenge of the Labour voter

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