John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for August, 2019

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Want to see the future? Take a trip on Wales’ model railway | John Harris

Monday, August 19th, 2019

The Heart of Wales line offers much more than beautiful scenery. It shows ‘social rail’ can transform communities

As the first hints of an autumnal chill chime with a revived sense of Brexit dread, this may not seem the best time to talk about hopeful glimmers of the future. To do so with reference to Britain’s railways, moreover, might look like lunacy, given the summer’s run of headlines – about power cuts, the apparently awful new sleeper service from London to Scotland and, last week, the announcement of yet another round of fare rises. But a fortnight ago the experience of travelling through spectacular countryside on single-carriage trains filled me with an optimism I have not felt for some time, and a sense of the possibilities that still lurk beneath our national nightmare.

With my dad and my 10-year-old daughter, I was on the Heart of Wales line, a 120-mile, mostly single-track route that runs between Shrewsbury and Swansea. As well as six tunnels and two glorious viaducts, there are 29 stops, 16 of which are so-called “request” stations, meaning that passengers who want to use them must either tell the conductor or, if they are getting on, make themselves visible as the train comes into view (you basically just have to stand on the platform, though jumping up and down adds to the fun).

Related: 10 classic UK trips by public transport

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Nicola Sturgeon: ‘If we crash out with no deal, Corbyn will be almost as responsible as May or Johnson’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Scotland’s first minister on her infamous doorstep encounter with the new PM, why the government’s Brexit plans are ‘catastrophic’ – and why people in England should move to Scotland

Early last week, for the briefest of moments, the tensions swirling around Scotland’s relationship with England and the deepening UK crisis of Brexit were perfectly symbolised by Boris Johnson’s arm.

Amid the angry noise of a crowd of demonstrators, Johnson was on the steps of Bute House (the Edinburgh residence of the Scottish first minister) exchanging the usual opening pleasantries with Nicola Sturgeon for the benefit of photographers and TV crews. Then came the moment when everyone had to go inside – whereupon Johnson rather condescendingly extended one of his upper limbs, with a view to escorting Sturgeon into her own HQ. She appeared to say something, whereupon the arm went down and Johnson awkwardly followed her in, a moment that inevitably went viral.

I think the abdication of leadership on the part of Jeremy Corbyn right now will be the stuff of history books

Related: Nicola Sturgeon warns Boris Johnson not to block independence vote

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Blame the scroungers. Blame the migrants. How Britain fell for austerity | John Harris

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

A swathe of public opinion has turned cruel. ‘They just don’t give a shit,’ a woman who’s been living on the streets told me

In January this year, I went on a Brexit trip to Dover. The main aim was to get a sense of what a no-deal exit from the EU would mean for the haulage trade, but while I was there I spent a long and cold afternoon wandering the seafront and town centre. Just near the white cliffs, on a jetty that seemed to form the last British land before the Channel, there was a dome tent, seemingly the property of someone who was homeless: an awful symbol of this country as a land of want and wilful neglect.

Later, in the centre of town, I met a woman who had been living on the streets for four years, having been repeatedly “sanctioned” and had her benefits stopped. The last time this had happened, she had been in hospital and failed to make it to the jobcentre, which caused her payments to be suspended for three months.

Johnson’s antics have a flavour of pre-revolutionary France. To hell with poverty: here is Mr Optimism with a chicken

Related: Boris Johnson says he’ll spend, but who will pay?

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