John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for April, 2018


Ukip may have collapsed, but where it led others will follow | John Harris

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

The party pioneered online activism and showed how anti-immigration nastiness can shape the wider debate

A walking ghost will be contesting next week’s local elections in England. Or rather, some of them. The party in question will be on the ballot paper in only one in eight seats: 75% fewer than it managed on the last comparable occasion, in places where the vast majority of its candidates now stand no chance of winning. Its most visible recent activity was a fundraising drive to stave off bankruptcy, after a grim mini-scandal centred on racist Facebook posts and texts sent by the girlfriend of a leader who managed five months in the job.

Such is the fate of what remains of Ukip: a force that, let’s not forget, attracted nearly 4 million votes in the 2015 general election, and spread no end of fear among Tory and Labour politicians. Along the way – and this may seem obvious, but is worth reprising – it laid the ground for Britain’s departure from the EU, and was a huge part of why David Cameron was panicked enough to call the 2016 referendum. Any schadenfreude, then, should be a kept to a minimum: for all that Ukip’s affairs now suggest closing time at a pub that has run out of beer, the people involved presumably take heart from the fact that they have achieved just about everything they ever wanted.

Related: Ukip investigates Peterborough candidate’s Twitter history

Related: HMS Brexit sticks it to the man – by tossing two dead fish overboard | John Crace

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The sinister segregation policies excluding children who don’t ‘fit in’ | John Harris

Monday, April 16th, 2018

I thought ignorant prejudice against disabled people and those with special needs was on the way out. But this government is turning back the clock to a nastier age

Human progress is slow to happen and sometimes hard to see: in an era as troubled as ours, the world can easily look as though it is regressing at speed. But look back, and you may see how far we have come. I grew up in a world where grim words such as “handicapped” and “retarded” were part of everyday speech, and disabled people were too often shut away. People put money in charity tins to salve their consciences, and then went back to their ignorance. A sure sign of the way society kept some people at arm’s length was the inhuman use of the definite article: people knew about “the deaf”, “the blind” and “the disabled”, but didn’t give them much thought.

Related: Families crowdfund legal action against special needs budget cuts

There are concerns about academies either excluding kids with special needs or pushing parents to choose other schools

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‘I couldn’t hold my newborn son’: the families split by visa laws

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

You meet a foreign partner and dream of a life together. But unless you have enough money, UK visa rules make it almost impossible

Laura Clarke is 29. She lives in Rugby, with her parents, and her 16-month-old son, Elijah. Every day she shows Elijah a picture of his father, her partner Biniyam Tesfaye. It’s the best she can do: he lives over 3,700 miles away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “He’s missing out on his son, and his son’s missing out on him,” she says. “We show Elijah pictures, but he’s not actually seeing him, so he’s not even using the word ‘Dada’ or ‘Daddy’. The longer this goes on, the more it will affect him.”

Clarke and Tesfaye first got together when she was teaching English at a primary school in Addis Ababa; he was one of her colleagues: “We met on my first day. We were friends for about a month, and then after that, things started to develop,” she says.

It was a really happy time. But knowing I had to go back really hurt

Forty per cent of people who work in this country are too poor to marry who they want

He’s already missing one parent: it’s not fair for me to put him into childcare so he’s missing two

They’re eight hours ahead. We get 10 or 20 minutes on Skype in the morning

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As Time Goes By by Derek Taylor review – life in the Beatles’ magic circle

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

A new edition of the memoir by the band’s amiable press officer who witnessed Beatlemania and took notes as the breakup happened

“Spring is here and Leeds play Chelsea tomorrow and Ringo and George and John and Paul are alive and well and full of hope. The world is still spinning and so are we and so are you. When the spinning stops – that’ll be the time to worry. Not before.” So ran the press release that announced the end of the Beatles on 11 April 1970, some time after they had actually broken up. It was written by Derek Taylor, a loquacious native of the Wirral who had served as their press officer in 1964, and again from 1968 until the end, when he headed the press department of Apple, their record company and doomed experiment in “western communism” .

Alongside their manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, Taylor – who was born in 1932 and died in 1997 – was one of the group’s inner circle whose comparatively advanced years and very English urbanity added to the sense that, however exotic their outward appearance, the Beatles kept one collective foot in a world of tea, biscuits and impeccable manners. He was working for the Daily Express when he and his wife Joan first saw the band, on a UK tour shared with Roy Orbison in 1963. “Though maybe at the ‘wrong’ end of that generation,” he later wrote, “we were nevertheless open thereafter to the possibilities of being truly young in heart.”

In the late ​19​60s and early ​​70s, Taylor recorded ​memories that evoke his dazzling working life

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