John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for March, 2017


Don’t heed the hysterical voices of ‘patriotism’. Britain isn’t broken | John Harris

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Alt-right populists such as Arron Banks, Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage point to terrorist attacks as a sign of social meltdown. They couldn’t be more wrong

As proved by Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and now Westminster, it is increasingly as much a part of the awful theatre of terrorism as the acts themselves: inside an hour or two of the news starting to break, figureheads of the so-called alt-right either reaching for their smartphones or sprinting to the nearest TV studio, and dispensing messages that chime perfectly with the intentions of the killers. They want rage, uncontrollable tension and intimations of the apocalypse to begin to embed in the societies they seek to attack. And guess what? The people who brought us Brexit, Trump and a thousand verbose radio spots and newspaper columns are only too happy to oblige.

With grinding inevitability, Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News on Wednesday night, and made his case with all the manic insistence of a Dalek, assisted by a large helping of what we now know as Alternative Facts. So, from the top: “What these politicians have done in the space of just 15 years may well affect the way we live in this country over the next 100 years … We’ve made some terrible mistakes in this country, and it really started with the election of Tony Blair back in 1997, who said he wanted to build a multicultural Britain. His government even said they sent out search parties to find immigrants from all over the world to come into Britain … The problem with multiculturalism is that it leads to divided communities. It’s quite different to multiracialism … I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries.”

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The shameless Tories have betrayed the self-employed – and themselves | John Harris

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

It’s a cynical Conservative trick: the budget exposed a party happy to help the big company bosses while penalising the little people

Superficially it looks like the rightwing press falling into yet another fit of specious morality. The morning after the budget, newspaper pages brimmed with testimony from sole traders and small-business owners, as if Philip Hammond’s budget pushed them to the brink of destitution. By contrast, there have been no tears for young people about to be denied housing benefit, nor the millions of people hit by drastic programmes of forced council cuts that continue apace. So, even if the headlines are a scream – witness the Sun’s “Spite Van Man”, or the Star’s inspired “Rob the Builder” – isn’t this classic Fleet Street cant?

Clearly, pushing up class 4 national insurance contributions and thereby squeezing an average of 60p a week from the self-employed is hardly a howling injustice. There again – and apologies to any outraged lefties for this point, but it’s true – most voters are not directly affected by howling injustices. Instead, what often counts in politics is the spectacle of people being riled by this or that example of clumsy tinkering, particularly if any proposed change has some symbolic resonance. And this one does, in spades.

Related: Budget 2017: Hammond rejects charge he broke Tory manifesto promise

Related: ‘This is grossly unfair’: self-employed readers react to NICs increase

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Hard Brexit is making the case for Scottish independence | John Harris

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Politics in England has become mean, callous and small-state, marginalising the values of most Scots. Who wouldn’t want to leave that behind?

On the issue that now defines modern Britain and the stances taken by England and Wales’s two main parties, is it time to start using the dread term “consensus politics”? As Martin Kettle pointed out in the Guardian this week, for all Labour’s sound and fury, its position on Britain’s future relationship with the EU is “in many essentials … indistinguishable from the prime minister’s hard Brexit”.

The fact that Labour MPs offered up tissue-paper amendments to the article 50 bill and then accompanied the Tories through the lobbies, regardless of their defeat, feels like a symbol of pathetic acquiescence that will endure. And despite the Lords’ admirable move on the rights of EU citizens, so did this week’s spectacle of Labour peers being instructed to oppose the amendment for Britain to remain a member of the single market.

Related: Labour leapt into Brexit’s fires – and now the party is burning | Martin Kettle

I have plenty of misgivings about the SNP, but on this point Nicola Sturgeon’s case is plain, and persuasive

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