John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for November, 2018

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30,000 empty homes and nowhere to live: inside Dublin’s housing crisis

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Dublin’s landlords would rather put their properties on Airbnb than rent to local families. There are echoes in cities around the world. By John Harris

The room Jenny Quinn shares with her 10-year-old son is about 10 sq metres, kitted out with the most basic furniture and dominated by what looks like a prison-issue metal bunkbed on which they both sleep. There is a small en suite bathroom; behind a heavy wooden shutter, the window looks out on to a bare expanse of concrete.

“He’s in drama therapy in school, for anxiety,” she tells me. “He cries a lot. He doesn’t believe in Santy [Father Christmas] any more. He’s not an angry child, but he’s lonely: he’s so, so lonely. There’s no kids his age here: they’re all babies. The PlayStation’s his best friend, because he can get on that headset and talk to his friends from school. That’s it.”

Related: Dublin’s homelessness crisis jars with narrative of Irish economic boom

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North Sentinel Island and the strange death of John Allen Chau – podcast

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

The death of an American missionary on a remote Indian island has sparked a backlash in India. The Guardian’s Michael Safi describes how John Allen Chau was killed after trying to preach Christianity to one of the world’s last remaining indigenous societies who live in total isolation. Plus John Harris on the trouble with Airbnb

John Allen Chau was last seen alive on the morning of 16 November. He had paid a group of fishermen to take him to the remote Indian island of North Sentinel, where a tribe is thought to have lived for more than 30,000 years with barely any outside contact.

The Guardian’s Michael Safi has been following the case, which has drawn interest from across the globe and caused uproar in India. He traces the story of the Sentinelese and their contact with colonialists and anthropologists, which foreshadowed the events of this month.

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Brexit is a class betrayal. So why is Labour colluding in it? | John Harris

Monday, November 19th, 2018

The Tory leave elite is dragging the country towards a disaster that the opposition could still avert by calling for a people’s vote

Over the past two and a half years, while the most vocal leave and remain campaigners have endlessly yelled at each other, Brexit has often presented itself as a case study in contradiction and complexity. Certainly, whenever I have spent time in leave-voting areas, I have always felt deeply ambivalent: sick and tired of the delusions that sit at Brexit’s heart, but also keenly aware that in some of the most neglected parts of England and Wales, a huge chunk of the people who voted for it did so because they had not been listened to for decades. As the whole saga groaned on, if I had a position, it was that Brexit probably had to happen – but that in its inevitably awful consequences might lie some eventual realignment of our politics, and the final death of an exceptionalist English fantasy with no place in the 21st century.

Related: Labour knuckles down but knows ’stop Tory Brexit’ not enough | Heather Stewart

Related: Brussels tells Theresa May – delaying Brexit will cost UK £10bn

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Without a fair tax on tech, it could be the end of the state as we know it | John Harris

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Big tech companies are transforming societies – but their pitiful contributions aren’t enough to help governments adapt

Alongside the results of last week’s US midterms came the passing of San Francisco’s Proposition C, a measure that will tax firms with an annual turnover of more than $50m (£44m) to raise an estimated $300m extra a year to help address homelessness. Last Tuesday, 60% of voters backed it: though the proposal is now snarled up in a constitutional dispute, its approval marks a big moment for a city whose housing crisis has become a matter of urgency.

Given the huge concentration of technology giants in San Francisco, the debate quickly became a drama about big tech and its social responsibilities. The most high-profile supporters of the plan included Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of the software company Salesforce, the single largest employer in the city, who donated $8m to get it on the statute book. He and his fellow campaigners were opposed by a gaggle of high-ups from such companies as Twitter, the ride-hailing giant Lyft, and the online payments service Stripe: wealthy people apparently doing their bit to resist a modest boost in help for the most vulnerable, in a place whose homelessness problem is at least partly traceable to the vast increases in property values caused by big tech’s local dominance.

Related: Jeremy Corbyn: I’ll tax tech firms to subsidise the BBC licence fee

Related: Tax big tech to help the homeless? San Francisco says yes after fierce campaign

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Damon Albarn on Brexit: ‘We live on this stroppy little island’

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The Good, the Bad & the Queen have been trying to figure out what’s become of England since the EU referendum. And the answers aren’t comforting

‘Well, this is weird, isn’t it?” says Damon Albarn. Six days ago, he was in Mexico City, playing with Gorillaz. Now, he and his bandmates in the Good, the Bad & the Queen are in Kent, taking turns to explain their second album in a fake American diner adjacent to the Maidstone studio where they will be performing on Later … with Jools Holland.

The seats are regulation red leatherette, and there are pictures on the wall of Stevie Wonder circa 1980’s Hotter Than July, a Ford truck and a Route 66 sign. And under glaring lights, as he picks at a vegetarian dinner in a polystyrene box, Albarn is talking about things that feel as if they have no place here at all: English folk myths; the north of England’s coastal resorts; his family’s background in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire – and, more than anything, Brexit. Harking back almost 25 years, he describes the new album as “the next instalment of Parklife. Like Parklife is a world, this is another world. Not entirely the real world, but not entirely far off it.”

Brexit is wrong. Jacob Rees-Mogg and people in Blackpool should never be together

I wanted to begin to understand how this abyss had opened up in the centre of our culture

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