John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for November, 2016

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‘All my life suddenly made sense’: how it feels to be diagnosed with autism late in life

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

Jon Adams was 52 when he learned he had Asperger syndrome. As adult referrals rise, he and others explain the impact – good and bad – of a late diagnosis

One day during his last year at primary school, Jon Adams drew a picture of a street in Portsmouth, the city where he still lives. The scene he drew had no people in it, but its representation of everything else suggested a talent beyond his years.

The headteacher happened to see the picture, and said he wanted to put it up in the school’s entrance hall. “And that was an honour,” Adams says, “particularly for someone who didn’t think they were any good, because they’d been told they weren’t any good, every day.”

My son received a diagnosis aged three. He had fixations with particular music or places – traits I recognise in myself

At secondary school, boys pretend to fancy you. It kills you, because you take it seriously

You might have imperfections, but the basics of the way you view the world are right for you

Related: Autism in the workplace – an opportunity not a drawback

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Pop music was a great leveller. Now it’s a bespoke plaything for the rich | John Harris

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Buying albums and watching bands were egalitarian pursuits. Now both reflect society’s wealth divide

There’s a new Pink Floyd record out, as they used to say in the 1970s. Only it’s not a record, a CD, or anything resembling the modest recorded artefacts with which that group made their name, but rather a 27-disc cornucopia, containing more than 26 hours of music, 42 “items of memorabilia”, five reproduction vinyl singles and three feature films. It is titled The Early Years 1965-72, so prepare for a sequel, and its outward appearance suggests an item of colour-coded furniture. Obviously, any devout fan of the group, me included, will love it. And the price? £375.99.

Related: Abbey Road incubator crosses musical royalty with entrepreneurial vision

Related: Gett off! Why Prince’s archive is an act of defiance against pop industry capitalism

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What does the US election mean for America? Catch up on our discussion

Friday, November 11th, 2016

What a week it’s been! Recap on our live look at the top news and comment below the line, with input from our journalists

4.44pm GMT

Thanks everyone for taking part this week, and for all your comments. We’ll keep the page open for longer but we are heading off. It’s been a long week! Hope everyone enjoys their weekends, and see you next Friday.

4.38pm GMT

About that question from earlier

This says that it was Theresa May who called Trump ( https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/10/concerns-over-special-relationship-allayed-as-may-speaks-to-trump ):

May talked to Trump earlier on Thursday, a Downing Street statement said. It added that the prime minister called “to congratulate him on his hard-fought election campaign and victory”, and confirmed May had been invited to visit the US “as soon as possible”.

We were being told today by one of the senior journos who is trust on this that it works that way – world leaders frantically phone him up, and they choose who to put through…

You mean everyone phones the new US president at the same time and he chooses what call to take first and Trump talked to another ten people before talking to Theresa May?

4.23pm GMT

Now tae find a substitute for my #Toblerone Susan. pic.twitter.com/Uy3PgadJo6

4.18pm GMT

In a week that didn’t feature a great deal of cheer, there was one topic that unified the divided British nation. The outrageous changes to the shape of our beloved Toblerone chocolate. The most read list on the BBC News site was reassuringly British.

#Toblerone travesty, Marks & Spencer, then the US election. The British people know where their priorities lie. pic.twitter.com/yhEcUws772

I always thought they made Toblerone triangular so it fits in the box.

Brexit just got real.
Via @markcjgreenwood #toblerone pic.twitter.com/VyFT7KGDvv

It’s easy to scoff at the fact that it takes food to act as a focal point for what is happening in this country, when there is so much that has been truly awful about this year…Child poverty, hate crime, the immediate retraction of a promise of extra NHS funding – all of these things should be more alarming than a slightly smaller chocolate bar, or a pricier snack. But all of these things have become part of a slow, heavy, ominous collective sigh that has summed up the past few months. Indeed, 2016 has been defined by a creeping sense of dread that all the progress humanity has made over the past few decades – centuries, if you’re feeling particularly doomy – might be about to unravel.

4.06pm GMT

In a week that brought us President-elect Trump, closer to home, Brits had our own reasons to feel that droning mix of fear and shame: a UN inquiry concluded that the UK’s austerity policies amounted to “systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

The work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, dismissed the scathing report as “patronising and offensive” to disabled people. Which is ironic, really, because I’d say the Conservatives telling paraplegics and cancer patients that being forced to pay the bedroom tax whilst having their disability benefit cut and social care removed “isn’t really as bad as you think” is the definition of patronising and offensive.

3.47pm GMT

There’s been a lot of talk of a possible future president in Michelle Obama, but this reader doesn’t see it:

I’m astonished to see people quite seriously expressing hope that Michelle Obama will run next time.

All the stuff about writers hoping to tell their daughters that they could be President just like Hillary was undermined by her surname. Dynasties are part of the problem.

Related: Why Michelle Obama is unlikely to run for president

3.39pm GMT

World leaders have begun congratulating Donald Trump on his election win as people around the world anxiously wait to see how their country will engage with the new US president.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the first global leader to speak to Donald Trump on the phone. He was also one of the first to congratulate him publicly. After a meeting in New York in September, where he met both Trump and Clinton, he described Trump as “a strong leader.” Trump in turn called Sisi “a fantastic guy”.

3.20pm GMT

Is it time to take a step back?

When Obama was elected he was practically hailed as the second coming of Jesus.

I remember it well, people crying in joy, people hugging in the street, the world was going to be a better fairer place. What happened? Absolutely the same old same old, the rich got richer the poor poorer.

3.15pm GMT

Steven W Thrasher’s response to the news this week was one of the most heartfelt, simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking: “Hold tight to the ones you love, please ,” he wrote, “ because all we’ve got is each other.” It seems to be a thought that occurred to quite a few of my friends at the same time. “Well, the worst has happened,” texted my friend Alison. “We are terrified here.” And then, “I just wanted to say that I love you dearly.” And if you think about it, that’s a hopeful response to an otherwise hopeless event.

3.00pm GMT

I interviewed photographers who’d taken pictures of Trump throughout his career, and it struck me just how malleable the president-elect is. One of the photographers, Chris Buck, described Trump as being very different in person from his bolshy public persona: gracious, funny, charming.

But another, Nigel Parry, said he was exactly the same as in public, that what you see is what you get. The two photos were admittedly taken a decade apart, but the disparity in their stories seems to suggest that Trump is even more chameleonic that we imagine, to the point of never having a stable version of himself: a man who makes up his life as he goes along, powered by a kind of barrelling narcissism and alpha-male presumptuousness.

Related: Photographers on their best Trump shot: ‘I think he’s a damaged person’

2.44pm GMT

A question:

Did Trump phone Theresa May or the other way round?

2.32pm GMT

I went outside to discover a Trump sign on my street, in a window that did not have that sign on Tuesday.

Who were the closet Trump voters? That’s a question I’ve been hearing again and again in the past few days.

2.30pm GMT

This reader wants to highlight Trump’s approach to the environment:

What does the US election result mean for the planet more like. Sounds like if Trump acts out on his climate-change-denier stance the human race and many other species will be toast considerably sooner than necessary. Let’s hope the rest of the world will come together to oppose him on this

I think what’s missing from John’s analysis (of Brexit and of Trump) is the generational aspect. By and large the damage that globalisation has done to industrial communities was done twenty or thirty years ago. The “millennials” overwhelming didn’t vote for Trump – they’ve moved on (at least in statistical aggregate).

The demographic that voted for Trump is one that remembers its parents industrial heyday. They lost out and they never made up the ground. They are not the poorest or most vulnerable people in society but they feel cheated, devalued and overlooked relative to the self-worth the prior generation enjoyed.

The first bit isn’t right. The 90s was a bad time too, and these changes are still ongoing.

Have a look at Richard C Longworth’s book Caught In The Middle, and what it says about the Midwest c.2007:

2.06pm GMT

I’ve noticed a lot of people in comments in the Guardian and on my Facebook feed asking why journalists weren’t out in places in middle America more, so just wanted to promote Gary Younge’s insightful series on Muncie, Indiana, which was the original Middletown. I supported him on this project and it was clear to me after speaking to Muncie voters for a month that Trump could easily take the White House. When you spend time listening to people you realise the reasons why something happened are various and nuanced.

Related: The view from Middletown: Why are we covering this story?

1.33pm GMT

I was working overnight to cover the US election, which is always a slightly surreal experience. Not least because news people working overnight shifts get food and are treated like heroes, whereas the sport desk are just pretty much expected to cope with evening fixtures pushing them to the deadline wire every single day. While there were dozens of us working on the election, there was one lone soul on the other side of the office faithfully doing the over-by-over live blog for England’s tour of India. We weren’t there the following night. He was.

When you have an event like an election with a binary outcome, of course the sensible editorial thing is to do some preparations. Such preparations can help fuel conspiracy theorists. Newsweek even managed to ship to newsagents some copies of their issue celebrating Hillary Clinton as the first woman to become president of the US.

My #election2016 night… Result was announced too late for last edition [all cover words dummy copy]

1.32pm GMT

Here are some of the best graphics to help you make sense of it all:

1.20pm GMT

Away from politics, readers have been sharing their memories and tributes to Leonard Cohen after the news he has died aged 82.

Related: ‘I bunked off school to go and see him’: readers’ tributes to Leonard Cohen

1.08pm GMT

As with Brexit, it seems to me that as far as writers and journalists are concerned there are two broad categories of response to the Trump victory. One is angry, righteous and focused on the idea that the whole phenomenon is basically down to racism, xenophobia, and hatred of the idea of women’s emancipation. Among other places, you could look at the historian Simon Schama’s Twitter feed for details: among his other opinions, he claimed this week that Trump’s win has had “had NOTHING to do with economics.”

This seems a strange view to me, and I tend to go for the second category of response. Most things – including Trump – have a lot do with economics. As I’ve said in a piece The Guardian published yesterday, the fact that he was basically carried to victory in the rustbelt states of the Midwest had everything to do with the malign aspects of globalization, and how they sow insecurity and instability (note also that Hillary Clinton was indelibly associated with all this, thanks chiefly to her husband’s record as President).

12.47pm GMT

A couple of your comments so far

What do I think about the US election result?

It was inevitable.
The inevitable result of the political establishment, as represented in this instance by Hillary Clinton, failing to listen, failing to react, failing to engage, labelling and judging people rather than acknowledging their concerns, and focusing on identity politics, political correctness and the rights of minorities rather than the basics of human existence: the need for a job, a safe neighbourhood, hope for the future.

I think Trump was the candidate of hope and change just as Obama was in 2008.

His positive vision of making America great again, bringing jobs back, cutting regulations, defunding the EPA, slashing taxes, appointing strict constitutionalists to the US supreme court, etc. is what won him the election.

Well for one thing it means the voting machines are not rigged.

12.27pm GMT

Megan Carpentier, former Opinion editor and now writer in our New York office explains with the help of voters on the street.

The results of Tuesday’s election in the United States are going to be the subject of a lot of opinions and a lot of research for years to come. It was, for many people (including probably some with the Trump campaign), an unexpected blow-out.

Jim Miller, 50, is an attorney in Avon, but like many of his friends and neighbors he has those blue-collar roots, said: “My dad worked 42 years in the steel mill … Those jobs don’t exist anymore. How many people work in the steel mill now? None.”

Walker added: “Those jobs that you could support a family on without going to college, they’re just not there. They’re gone.”

12.15pm GMT

It’s the topic of the week and we are keen to hear from our readers on it. So what do you think? Here’s some comment and news articles to get you thinking:

• More anti-Trump action planned after second night of protests across US

12.07pm GMT

So … lots to talk about this week (to say the least!), and this is the space to do it in. Join us from 12pm-4.30pm (GMT) to discuss a week in politics that shocked much of the world. We’ve got lots of other stuff in store too, including comments on grammar schools in the UK and the power of swearing. Stay tuned.

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The reasons for Trump were also the reasons for Brexit | John Harris

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Workers in the US midwest are victims of globalisation in the same way as those in Stoke on Trent

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In May this year, as the Indiana primary saw Donald Trump clinch the Republican party’s presidential nomination, I was following his campaign in the same state. In Sungate, a neat-looking residential development on the outskirts of Indianapolis, I chatted to people killing time in their driveways. As evidenced by the empty homes and long grass, whatever aspirational dream had been sold to the people here had long since curdled. “We had a bad crash a couple of years ago, houses got foreclosed, factories closing, loss of jobs,” one man explained, as his dog yelped loudly at our camera.

I wondered: how did he feel about the election? “I’m thinking about it pretty strong right now,” he said. “I want to keep the American jobs here, try getting a lot of jobs overseas back.” This sounded like an endorsement of the Republican frontrunner. “I’m not saying right now. I like some of his views, some of his views I don’t like,” he said, with what seemed to be a giveaway smile: as far as I could tell, he was on the way to becoming a Trump man.

In America, economic malaise fatally highlighted the shortcomings of Hillary Clinton

Related: After the election of Donald Trump, we will not mourn. We will organize | Gloria Steinem

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Bravo to the Greens of Richmond Park for showing progressives how to truly unite | John Harris

Friday, November 4th, 2016

The Greens have bowed out of the byelection, giving the Lib Dems a clearer run against Zac Goldsmith. Post-Brexit, this kind of smart thinking is badly needed

As strange as it may sound, for the next few weeks, the future of left-of-centre politics might revolve around a verdant corner of west London, where a trailblazing step into a better future has been taken by two underrated revolutionary organisations, the Richmond and Twickenham branch of the Green party, and its counterpart in Kingston-upon-Thames.

For the last week or so, a loud debate has raged about the looming Richmond Park byelection, and how the various non-Tory parties ranged against the faux-independent Zac Goldsmith should respond to a contest called at his behest. He wants everything to be focused on his opposition to Heathrow expansion, but the vote that will happen on 1 December is inevitably about much more, not least because of Goldsmith’s belief in Brexit and the high court’s decision about parliament’s role. In that context, the people of Richmond Park have a simple enough choice: should they return someone who will view a vote on article 50 as a chance to hold the government to account, avoid hard Brexit and even push for a second referendum? Or do they prefer a convinced leaver who is likely to approach things from the opposite standpoint?

Related: Division haunts the left. Richmond is our chance to lay it to rest | Zoe Williams

Related: A vote against Zac Goldsmith is a vote against extreme Brexit | Polly Toynbee

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