John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for June, 2016

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Whoever the leader is, Labour may never recover from this crisis | John Harris

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

This is a 20th-century party adrift in a new reality – its social foundations in trade unions and heavy industry either vanished or in deep retreat

The Labour party must currently be thinking collective thoughts akin to the old card player’s term: Who dealt this mess anyway? More than 80% of its MPs are now formally estranged from not just the leader, but from the 40 other MPs who support him. In a cruel twist of fate, the spectre of the sainted Tony Benn hangs over the whole grim drama: he was the guru of the leftwing anti-EU position we now call Lexit, but also the man who endlessly pushed the idea that activists should have the whip hand over parliamentarians.

For all his commendable policy positions Jeremy Corbyn has been a pretty awful leader. But in all its fundamentals, the state of his party is hardly his fault. To blame him is to fall for the same delusion whereby a supposed challenger – Angela Eagle, Tom Watson, Dan Jarvis – can put the party on the road to recovery. The truth, unpalatable to some but which is surely obvious, is that Labour is in the midst of a longstanding and possibly terminal malaise, and now finds itself facing two equally unviable options.

Related: Labour must unite and face the country, or die | Lisa Nandy

Related: We need a second referendum. The consequences of Brexit are too grave | David Lammy

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In the Left Field, a glimmer of hope behind the Brexit doom

Monday, June 27th, 2016

One subject dominated political debate in Glastonbury’s activist area – but all is not lost

On Friday morning, I stood ankle-deep in the mud, held out a microphone, and asked the people walking away from the Pyramid stage to sum up their feelings about the EU referendum result in one word. I was after gut feelings rather than eloquence, and out they came: “Crap”, “Bollocks”, “Shocking”. Only one passerby went the other way: “Great – I’ve woke up English,” he said, and with a look of deep joy, went on his way.

Glasto was self-evidently a majority-for-remain kind of place, and there was one place people’s post-referendum feelings were soothed and shared: the Left Field, the big top curated by that great English institution, Billy Bragg. It has been part of the festival furniture since 2002. During the day, it hosts debates and discussions – chaired by me, for the past couple of years. At night, there is music, usually with a political tilt. And this year, just about everything that happened under the canvas was inevitably coloured by what had happened in the real world just as the festival had got going.

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‘If you’ve got money, you vote in … if you haven’t got money, you vote out’

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Brexit is about more than the EU: it’s about class, inequality, and voters feeling excluded from politics. So how do we even begin to put Britain the right way up?

“If you’ve got money, you vote in,” she said, with a bracing certainty. “If you haven’t got money, you vote out.” We were in Collyhurst, the hard-pressed neighbourhood on the northern edge of Manchester city centre last Wednesday, and I had yet to find a remain voter. The woman I was talking to spoke of the lack of a local park, or playground, and her sense that all the good stuff went to the regenerated wonderland of big city Manchester, 10 minutes down the road.

Related: EU referendum full results – find out how your area voted

Related: There is a way Brexiters could really hand back control to voters | Caroline Lucas

Related: Brexit brought democracy back – now we need to start listening to each other | Giles Fraser

Related: Disproportionate number of Labour​’s new ​members are wealthy city dwellers

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The UK is now two nations, staring across a political chasm | John Harris

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Leave voters aren’t lemmings jumping off a cliff, and the left urgently needs to understand their choices

What a strange, unsettling, anxious moment this is. I mean that partly in the sense of vote, but also of the emotions that are still raw after the death of Jo Cox, and what the last month or so has highlighted about the state of what we must still call the United Kingdom. Many people knew the rough story, of course: of a country cleaved by rising inequality, prone to great outbursts of anger and frustration, and now in the midst of its own version of US-style culture wars – a picture, in fact, that now applies to much of Europe, and is coming into even sharper focus in America itself. But if the build-up to the referendum has told us anything, it is that all this has reached a disturbing peak.

On Tuesday I was in Northampton’s market square, and finding leave voters was a cinch. One or two, just to make this clear, were plain racist, but the majority were not: they talked about immigration, but in the context of jobs, housing and all the rest. An hour later I was on a London tube train sprinkled with successful-looking professionals, a few of whom had “Stronger in” stickers on their Herschel rucksacks and laptop bags. They would presumably echo the views of leave voters that a young woman about to go to university had expressed in Northampton. She talked about their supposed view of immigrants: “They think they’re stealing our jobs … bringing in crime and terrorism. It’s just nonsense.”

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EU referendum: welcome to the divided, angry Kingdom – video

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

As the big vote approaches and many voices say the EU referendum has whipped up the politics of hate, John Harris and John Domokos go on a five-day road trip from post-industrial Labour towns to rural Tory heartlands. In Birmingham, Leave voters cross racial and cultural divides; in Manchester, students uniformly back Remain; while people in the city’s neglected edgelands want out. And one fact burns through: whatever the result, the UK’s grave social problems look set to deepen

EU referendum live: remain and leave make final push in last day of campaign

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