John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for May, 2017

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Britain’s cities are falling victim to Theresa May’s cold, crabby nostalgia politics | John Harris

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Our urban centres are bearing the brunt of the latest austerity cuts. Not since the Thatcher era has a Tory government dared to pit town against country this cynically

‘There’s nobody representing us,” said the thirtysomething man killing time on a side street in Handsworth, Birmingham. Amid the weekday bustle on nearby Soho Road, a smattering of people told me they would be voting Labour, there was irate talk about the Conservatives’ record on immigration, and a few British-Asian former Brexit supporters said they now regretted voting for the leave side, what with prices creeping up and the uncertainties facing small business people. But to a greater extent than anywhere I’ve visited over the past three weeks, the election felt irrelevant to ordinary life.

Related: General election 2017: ITV hosts first leaders’ debate – as it happened

There is a deepening polarisation at the heart of all this, glaringly evident on the national political map

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‘We are not represented’: why is this election so white? – video

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

In the third part of their election roadtrip, John Harris and John Domokos spend time in Birmingham and Walsall – the kind of urban, multiracial communities that the politics of Brexit has suddenly pushed to the sidelines. They find Theresa May’s hardline immigration stance and cuts to English language classes sparking anger and frustration, but also find Labour supporters attracted by her ‘strong and stable’ pitch for their votes

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Cuts, anger, frustration – and Labour still can’t break through – video

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

As their election tour continues, John Harris and John Domokos watch the Labour party lose in Lancashire. Public services may have been ravaged by austerity, but the Conservatives appear to be on a roll. As children’s centres, libraries and buses are axed, even a passionate local anti-cuts campaigner cannot stop the blue surge. So what’s going on?

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In Brexit Britain there are three kinds of voter: the disconnected, the deceived, and the dismayed | John Harris

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Theresa May’s projected election victory will be pyrrhic: the country has no clue where it is heading

Can we now hail this general election as the strangest British contest in living memory? We have a prime minister who affected to go into the campaign full of vim and vigour, but now seems to recoil from the absolute basics of what electioneering entails. If your people shut journalists from a big regional website into a small room for fear they might video something as banal as a visit to a manufacturer of diving equipment – as Theresa May’s campaign apparently did in Cornwall this week – you are surely in a very odd place.

Related: Theresa May accused of hiding from voters on Bristol visit

Related: The Erdoğan of Downing Street, a Le Pen in No 10: that’s how Merkel sees May | Stephan Richter

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Should it be compulsory to vote? Catch-up on our live look at the week

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

We discussed the week’s top stories in real-time with our readers. Look back on our discussion and share your views below the line

4.34pm BST

Thanks everyone – I will switch off the live blog now but keep on talking below the line.

4.13pm BST

We will be signing off soon, but you can continue to discuss below the line. Thanks everyone

3.54pm BST

For anyone who has ever done any endurance challenge, be it running a half marathon or withstanding the daily assault of a horrible boss, the value of swearing is probably well-known.

Related: Strong language: swearing makes you stronger, psychologists confirm

3.53pm BST

Voting should be compulsory with the addition of two extra options on the voting form
1. Abstain – so that we can register our disapproval of all the candidates
2. A write in box to put in the name and address of anyone we think would be better than the listed candidates who could be allowed to stand (i.e. resident in the area)

Yes, compulsory voting. With a “none of the above option”. If the five year term was a waste of time (as many of us said it was at the time) it might be better to set possible voting dates well in advance, say every six months. Then at least we can do all the voting in one visit.

3.34pm BST

It turns out there’s only so much being knifed, bitten and swallowed whole that food will take before it fights back. Last week, following the dayglo environmental disaster that was the flooding of a Russian town by tropical juice I wondered whether there had been any other food-based (un)natural disasters? Not only did it turn out that there had (exploding cheese, lethal beer, ocean-wrecking treacle), and that being submerged in delicious porter isn’t so much a brilliant Saturday night out as an awful way to die. But it also transpired that some foodstuffs are more damaging to the environment than the noxious materials of heavy industry (black treacle + ocean = way worse than an oil spill). Probably best not to think about the consequences of this for your insides.

3.33pm BST

We are going to be moving on from election stories now, but please keep posting below the line. Next few posts will be on swearing and food disasters.

3.01pm BST

Looks like efforts to get young people to vote are starting to pay off. 9 in 10 students entitled to vote in June’s election have now registered, according to a survey this week. And 55% of them intend to vote for Labour – an increase on 23% back in 2005.

Whether the boost is entirely due to a groundswell of support for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is unclear. Analysts say it’s probably more complex than that: tactical voting after Brexit will be another factor, after 85% of students voted Remain in the EU referendum. The other anti-Brexit choice would be the Lib Dems, though their brand has likely been tarnished among students ever since the tuition fee rise in 2012.

2.30pm BST

Many of us are feeling wiped out after a year of non-stop politics. So it’s safe to say enthusiasm for another election is at rock bottom. I asked Anushka Asthana, our politics editor, to do an In my opinion video when the election was announced and she decided to focus on this national feeling of apathy. Her message was that political strategists are using this mood to their advantage. We chose soundbites and clips that highlighted how robotic and corporate the Conservative campaign has been, and Anushka argued that they know they can get away with it as no one has the energy for a battle of ideas.

1.56pm BST

Should we really make voting mandatory?

Trumbledon asks how that would work exactly.

The idea of compulsory voting is absurd. What would the penalty be for not voting? A fine? Jail?

So what happens when a single parent on benefits doesn’t turn up to cast a vote?

I couldn’t be more opposed to compulsory voting. I am not in the least impressed by Polly’s high- handed and arrogant dismissal of this as “right wing libertarian.”
Forcing people to tick a box labelled none of the above would be as pointless an exercise in form- filling for its own sake as I can imagine.
What’s needed is an electoral quorum.

Yes it should be compulsory. It’s bizarre that people accept the government taking a third or more of their income as a necessary part of living in a modern society, but they think bring required to fill out a form once every couple of years at intolerable tyranny.

I forgot to vote to be honest was only when a friend mentioned it in the evening that I realised. No flyers through the day ahead of the vote. Nearest polling station is several miles away, so happy for it to be compulsory but should be able to vote via some means other than in person, some kind of two factor authentication, fingerprint scanning, photograph the polling card (QR codes), something better than postal votes which are easily manipulated.

Don’t worry though, I’m ready for the 8th June

On compulsory voting – I am not sure it is the answer.

As a 28 year old I am really interested in why young people don’t bother to vote. We complain that no parties represent us (true) but if we don’t vote why would they bother tailoring any policies to us?

1.32pm BST

Citizens have duties they can’t avoid. They must obey the laws democratically set by parliament, pay taxes parliament decides, and serve on juries when required – 90% of our law is enforced by volunteer citizen magistrates.

All these things depend on another duty of citizens: the duty to vote. I would make it compulsory to mark a ballot paper or face a penalty: there would have to be a “None of the above” option, but people would have to turn up. When I suggested compulsory voting yesterday a howl of protest from mostly rightwing libertarians said it would be a abuse of their freedom. Nonsense! People are harming their own freedoms by failing to vote. Only 14% of the 18-24s says they’ll definitely vote, while 79% of the over 65s will vote. That’s why the government does nothing for the young, their housing, their university fees, while giving very expensive triple-lock pensions to the old.

1.30pm BST

We will shortly be moving on to discuss whether voting should be compulsory – watch this space.

1.03pm BST

Some would say exercising your democratic right to elect your representatives is the best part of voting day. Those people are wrong, because clearly spotting dogs at polling stations is the best bit about voting.

Went to vote in our #LocalElections2017 #dogsatpollingstations

Dogs in Splott doing their bit for the community #DogsAtPollingStations

We can’t talk about the local elections because of strict guidelines, but we can show you #dogsatpollingstations

Phoebe voted for extra sausages ✅#dogsatpollingstations #MayoralElection #GMMayor @MENnewsdesk

1.00pm BST

Here are some of your views on what you think about the election.

Do Conservative voters really support May or is she just the lesser of two evils?

I’m curious to know whether Conservative voters see Theresa May as the best person to lead us into the most complex, multi-sided diplomatic negotiation of our lifetimes?

She went over to Washington and allowed Donald Trump to lead her around by the hand, while sporting her trademark petrified expression. That was the image of Britain beamed round the world. Can you imagine Angela Merkel or Xi Xinping allowing that to happen?

In the best interests of the country … it is time for Labour to embrace other parties and rerun the 1918 Coupon Election.

In December 1918 the UK had its first General Election since 1910. WWI had just ended and the coalition government, led by Lloyd George, wasn’t in a position to make detailed manifesto commitments. Therefore, the coalition agreed to fight the election on a single underpinning principle … that they would build “a land fit for heroes”. The coalition stood a single candidate in each constituency, funds and expenses were shared, and each coalition candidate was issued with a ‘coupon’ signed by Lloyd George and Bonar Law which identified them as the coalition’s choice of ideal candidate to help deliver the underpinning principle of “a land fit for heroes”.

I’ve far from convinced there is any real prospect of ‘progressive alliance’ even amongst the parties or the voters. However if it is to happen, those parties need to come together for the next election (its too late for this) and stand on a shared platform for changing to a system of proportional representation and once that is achieved they dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

12.04pm BST

Our Anywhere But Westminster series has now been on the road for two weeks. We started by travelling from the western tip of Cornwall to Bristol, and I’m writing this from the knife-edge county of Lancashire, where I’m about to find out whether Labour are about to lose control of the council to the Tories. So far, what’s pretty clear is the contrast between a divided, messed-up, often resentful country, and the sense that the Conservatives are once again about to win, and win big.

11.59am BST

Hey everyone and welcome to our weekly social. We will be discussing lots today, including what’s going on in the world of politics and much more. Share your views with us below the line, and let us know if there is anything in particular you want to discuss.

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