John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for February, 2017

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Chairman of housing association behind ’substandard’ development resigns

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Sir Robin Young’s decision to stand down from Clarion Housing Group in April comes after reports into residents’ ‘living hell’ at Orchard Village estate

The chairman of the housing association at the heart of a scandal focused on a newly-built East London residential development has announced that he is standing down.

Sir Robin Young, a former high-ranking civil servant during Tony Blair’s time as prime minister, was appointed chair of the newly-created Clarion Housing Group when it was formed in December last year but will now depart in April.

Related: Leaking sewage and rotten floorboards: life on a ‘flagship’ housing estate

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‘It feels like a wilfully ignored secret’: how commentators painted Stoke-on-Trent all wrong

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

The labels that media and politicans use – ‘Brexit capital of Britain’ for Stoke, for example – aren’t always fair, and can be damaging, argues John Harris, who admits he’s done it too

For days before Stoke-on-Trent’s big byelection, the pedestrianised space next to its Potteries shopping centre crawled with activists. They spanned the entire political spectrum, from the Greens to the BNP. Many had come a very long way: there were Labour disciples from London and Manchester, Lib Dems from Gloucester and Merseyside, and Ukip believers from as far afield as Kent and northern Scotland.

One of the Ukippers, who was from Essex, had dyed her hair purple especially for the occasion. Outside a shop front plastered with posters featuring the party’s leader and doomed candidate Paul Nuttall, I asked her what she was doing here. “The ordinary people want change,” she said.

Related: Paul Nuttall is paying the price for Ukip’s success being built on blurring the truth | Phil McDuff

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This Copeland disaster shows just how big Labour’s problems are | John Harris

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Yes, there are flashes of hope, and campaigning in Stoke was dogged. But the party is racked by a historic crisis that preceded the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn

Amid Trump, and Brexit, and the political hurly-burly that now regularly grips mainland Europe, it is easy to get the impression that politics no longer follows hard-and-fast rules, and amounts instead to a series of unforeseen events and complete accidents.

Still, at the risk of sounding hopelessly old fashioned, let us remind ourselves of the political state we are in, what it would have once have entailed, and what has just happened in Cumbria and Stoke-on-Trent.

Related: The remain vote is now Labour’s urgent priority – Stoke and Copeland prove it | John Curtice

Related: Stoke and Copeland byelections: Corbyn allies blame disunity for Labour’s historic defeat – Politics live

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What’s the point of building a million new homes if they’re not fit to live in? | John Harris

Friday, February 24th, 2017

The dream of a property-owning democracy is ridden with cracks and leaks: ministers say build, build, build – but then fail to ensure proper regulation

They might be the most ubiquitous feature of the modern English landscape, and yet they barely attract any comment: those sprawling newbuild housing developments that seem to surround almost every town and city, offering a promise of comfort and security and a vital foot on the property ladder.

More often than not, their avenues and culs-de-sac will have faux-bucolic names often ending in “meadows”, “mead”, or “wood”. The life therein seems profoundly modern: stripped of much history or sense of shared experience so that everything suggests the weightlessness of suburbia. Yet for all the outward gleam, something is wrong.

Related: Bovis to pay £7m to compensate customers for poorly built homes

It is all there in the Commons report – housebuilders’ own quality control systems are not fit for purpose

Related: Leaking sewage and rotten floorboards: life on a ‘flagship’ housing estate

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‘They don’t care about us’: the anger and apathy behind the Stoke byelection – video

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

As the media get in a lather about the byelection contest between Labour and Ukip, John Harris visits Stoke-on-Trent, the supposed ‘Brexit capital of Britain’. He investigates why so many people there simply don’t vote, and whether the new breed of energetic Labour activists who have arrived in town en masse can somehow change their minds

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