John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for June, 2020

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There’s another pandemic stalking Britain: hunger | John Harris

Monday, June 29th, 2020

As Boris Johnson instructs us to go out and spend, swathes of the population can barely afford to eat

In over three months of reporting about the Covid-19 outbreak and the social crisis it has sparked, one subject has come up in my conversations far more than most: food. Or rather, an increasing number of people’s familiarity with the experience and prospect of hunger.

As the recession that will surely explode by the autumn takes shape, food-bank providers report surges in demand of, in some places, around 300%. When the footballer Marcus Rashford took on and beat the government over the provision of free school meals over the summer holidays, he was shining a light on the same soaring want. At the heart of this is something a lot of people understood well before the outbreak: that, from our immigration rules to the punitive benefits system, people have been deprived of the most basic security by deliberate policy – something highlighted when the people in charge of food projects describe what they and those they help are now facing.

Related: The British government is about to sleepwalk into an unemployment crisis | Larry Elliott

Related: The UK arts sector was thriving before coronavirus. It’s folly not to save it | Polly Toynbee

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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After a decade of austerity: what now? – podcast

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Columnist John Harris has spent the past decade touring the country and reporting on what devastating budget cuts have meant to communities. Looking back, he sees some signs of hope amid the devastation. But will the government change its approach for the impending Covid-19 economic crash?

When George Osborne delivered his spending review in June 2010 it ushered in what would become a decade of austerity measures. As budgets were slashed for children’s centres, libraries, parks and welfare, they were accompanied with the phrase “we are all in this together”.

The Guardian columnist John Harris has been touring the country for the entire decade, chronicling the devastation that those cuts have made in local communities for his award-winning series Anywhere But Westminster. He tells Rachel Humphreys how his latest reporting on the Barnsley village of Thurnscoe is illustrative of what austerity does to a place. He finds children’s centres cut, the landscape blighted with litter and unmown verges, parks in disrepair and libraries curtailed.

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Life in lockdown: Covid-19, BLM and inequality in east London – video

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

As people emerge into a changed reality, the Anywhere But Westminster team focuses on east London, where Covid-19 has fused with the Black Lives Matter movement and huge injustices are impossible to ignore. Young people in particular are agreed: there’s no going back to the world of 12 weeks ago

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‘Things vanish off the edge’: Barnsley counts the cost of a decade of austerity

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

The borough council has lost a third of its budget and the results are plain to see

Thurnscoe in South Yorkshire has a population of 8,500 and a local economy that speaks volumes about modern British history. Until the demise of the coal industry it was a pit village, where 80% of the male workforce earned their living from mining.

Now, on the site of the former Houghton main colliery three miles down the road, there is a vast distribution centre run by the online fashion giant Asos.

Related: Exclusive: Labour councils in England hit harder by austerity than Tory areas

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Racists think England is theirs. It’s time to show them it is not | John Harris

Monday, June 15th, 2020

We don’t have to accept an archaic, hateful vision of our country. Let’s build on the diverse, multiracial place it actually is

In his first speech as prime minister in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said that securing Brexit was a way of “uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on Earth”. A few months later, he addressed the Conservative conference, and told his audience that the UK was “the most successful political partnership in history”, which he would “defend against those who would wantonly destroy it”.

All modern prime ministers have gone in for this stuff: Tony Blair, for example, once claimed that “The British are special. The world knows it. In our hearts we know it.” But jingoistic, exceptionalist bluster sits particularly close to the heart of this PM: it’s a prop he can reach for when he feels the stifling restrictions of detail, seen in everything from the ocean of cant he brought to the 2016 Brexit campaign to his strange claim that his government’s test and trace system would be not just dependable, but somehow “world beating”.

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