John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for April, 2019

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My England is in a mess. Scotland’s case for splitting away is stronger than ever | John Harris

Monday, April 29th, 2019

The country I call home is dysfunctional. But north of the border, there’s the chance of something better

The day of the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, I was in Hallglen, a large housing estate on the edge of Falkirk. As it turned out, the town would vote to remain in the UK by 54% to 46%, but where I was, droves of people were turning out to support the end of the union, and the creation of a new country.

I had spent time on the estate over the previous weeks, and observed a remarkable upsurge of both interest in politics, and optimism – not least at a Sunday evening public meeting at which hundreds had gathered to talk about how badly their area had fared since the Thatcher years, and how breaking from the rotten Westminster consensus might serve it better. Now, as people went in and out of the polling station, I fell into conversation with a thirtysomething man, who had a vision of what an independent Scotland might mean for the rest of the UK. “If we start this, we could make a big, proper movement for the rest of the country,” he said. “And I think we should. The poverty in this country – us, and England, and everywhere else – shouldn’t be happening in 2014.”

Related: Nicola Sturgeon’s strike for independence should not let the SNP off the hook | Kevin McKenna

If the three-year saga of Brexit tells us anything, it is that the United Kingdom is irretrievably breaking apart

Related: England’s sorry delusions are Scotland’s best argument for independence | Kevin McKenna

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Our schools are beyond breaking point – where is the outrage? | John Harris

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Bone-headed reforms and deep cuts have left our education system in a scandalous state of disrepair

Last summer, as the politics of Britain’s exit from the EU staggered on and England’s World Cup run offered some kind of respite, I spent an afternoon in Brownhills, near the West Midlands town of Walsall. I was there to try to get beyond the deafening inanities of Brexit, and report on the mounting financial crisis facing England’s education system. At Millfield primary school, everything once again became clear.

Millfield serves a deprived catchment area, and is the kind of place whose everyday magic becomes obvious as soon as you walk in. It has an imaginative approach to education and a track record of helping children in difficult circumstances. Despite its location among tarmac and trunk roads, it specialises in outdoor activities such as canoeing and hiking. But the day I was there, all the talk was of which bits of its provision would have to go. Its headteacher, Michelle Sheehy, was blunt: “We’re heading for a £200,000 deficit. So we need to cut.”

Related: One in five teachers using own money for school supplies – report

Related: More than 1,000 English schools turn to online donations to close funding gap

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Brexit breakdown: affluence, decay and fury in the Tory heartlands – video

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

As Tory tensions over leaving the EU continue to grow, John Harris and John Domokos take a trip through the Conservatives’ Thames valley heartlands, starting in Theresa May’s backyard. It’s all there: unbelievable opulence, social decay and a bitter clash between a neighbouring remainer Tory MP and the hardcore local leavers who claim he is a ‘traitor’ 

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In May’s home county, Tory problems run much deeper than Brexit | John Harris

Monday, April 8th, 2019

The effects of austerity and the housing crisis in the Thames valley make clear the wider crisis in English Conservatism

“It’s a shithole,” she said. “It’s supposed to be Theresa May’s area, and, I’m not being funny, but would you want to live here?”

I’ve seen worse places, I said.

Related: What I found in Theresa May’s heartland: an England in miniature | Ian Jack

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Street battle: the activists fighting to save their neighbourhood from the tech giants

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Facebook, Google and Amazon have not just colonised the internet: their hubs, campuses and offices are taking over huge sections of cities around the world. But campaigners from New York to Toronto and Berlin are fighting back

‘It’s a challenge out here. The way the tech companies are building and increasing their size is just pricing people out. Families who have been here for generations can’t afford to be here any more. They’re being pushed off into rural areas – anywhere from an hour to two and a half hours away.”

JT Faraji is a 43-year-old artist who lives with his family in East Palo Alto, the northern California city on the edge of Silicon Valley. Just a stone’s throw away, Facebook’s global headquarters is his most visible neighbour, and he is also close to a big new Amazon office. He has lived in the area all his life and talks volubly about fascinating aspects of East Palo Alto’s history – like the period in the 1960s when black activists set up a high school and college, and there was even talk of renaming the city Nairobi: “There are a lot of minorities here: Hispanics, blacks, Pacific Islanders,” he says. “But those people are not really represented in the workforce in technology. So the way that northern California is going to look in not too long is going to be very … undiverse.”

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