John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for June, 2020

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Millions of Britons are suffering right now as the economy tanks. Are you seeing that on social media? | John Harris

Monday, June 8th, 2020

Britain will only be revived post-coronavirus if we all sit up and take notice of what’s happening around us

Last week I came to the end of 10 days of work focused on the north-eastern town of Middlesbrough. Drawn by the fact that it had one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the country, the team behind the Guardian’s Anywhere but Westminster video series had decided to talk to as many local people as possible – about the illness and what remained of the lockdown, but also how they felt about the future.

Via video-conferencing platforms and phone calls, one of the neighbourhoods we focused on was South Bank, three miles east of the town centre. We had been there five years ago, when we heard about the closed down shops and businesses, long-term unemployment and the cruelties of the benefits system. This time around, along with a strong community spirit, all these things were even more evident, but it was clear that even the opportunities to make ends meet by ducking and diving through precarious work and the informal economy were now shrinking fast.

Related: ‘The way we get through this is together’: mutual aid under coronavirus | Rebecca Solnit

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‘Way behind the curve’: test, trace and a local credibility gap

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Councils are supposed to play a big role in the coronavirus strategy, but do they have the means to do so?

Just under a fortnight ago, council leaders across England received an email containing three attachments. It had been sent on behalf of Nadine Dorries, the health minister and former I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! contestant.

Official material related to Covid-19 has frequently been full of numerical scales, shaded shapes and perplexing diagrams, and so it proved this time. As well as the promise of “an integrated and world-class Covid-19 test-and-trace service”, one of the documents featured four circles in different shades of green, and the words “test”, “enable”, “contain” and “trace”. Close by were two lines of text that sounded important, but baffled some of the people who read them.

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Life in lockdown: Britain’s hidden social crisis and the people trying to fight it – video

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

The Anywhere But Westminster team return to the north-east town of Middlesbrough, which has had one of the highest infection rates in the UK. Far away from ministerial briefings and political intrigue, Covid-19 has worsened already ingrained problems: biting hardship, precarious work and the feeling that government has left people to sink or swim. There is hope and energy at the grassroots but can things really change?

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