John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for October, 2020


The rest of the country will suffer so long as Westminster holds the purse strings | John Harris

Monday, October 26th, 2020

We were promised an era of civic rebirth. Instead, Covid has shown how obsessively London clings to power

For those of us who have always longed for British politics to shift its focus beyond Westminster, last Tuesday afternoon brought a tantalising glimpse of an alternative reality. A gathering of press and politicians outside Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall produced one moment of solid-gold drama: when the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, suddenly received confirmation that his region would soon fall under tier 3 of the government’s Covid-19 restrictions via a message on a mobile phone, and pronounced the decision “brutal”.

Related: This pandemic has been the making of England’s elected mayors | Simon Jenkins

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The pitched battle over lockdowns is missing the point: Covid-19 is a class issue | John Harris

Monday, October 19th, 2020

The UK coronavirus crisis – even more so in its second phase – is all about basic inequalities – and lockdown makes these worse

Just as our final exit from the EU comes into view, noise from the media and politics about Covid-19 is sounding discomfortingly similar to the furies that erupted around the 2016 referendum.

On one side stands the political right, opposed to lockdown, apparently spurning the advice of experts, and seemingly convinced that a mixture of true-Brit common sense and derring-do will somehow see us through. The left, meanwhile, emphasises the importance of “the science”, and the prospect of disaster. As in the US, it is beginning to feel like any contentious political question will now trigger these polarised responses – not necessarily in the population at large, but certainly among the people whose opinions define what passes for the national conversation.

Related: Inequality is rising under Covid – how we talk about it is vital | Frances Ryan

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Local lockdowns dreamed up in London are causing nightmares for the rest of England | John Harris

Sunday, October 11th, 2020

Dealing with Covid is hard enough for cities like Manchester. Centralised power and a shambolic government make it even harder

At the heart of England’s passage through the Covid-19 era are two key factors which have combined to create a mess of failure and mishap.

One is the government’s simple incompetence. The other centres on a centralised system of power and administration that no longer works – something now vividly manifest in just about every aspect of the crisis, from the way rules and restrictions are being landed on places without warning, to a national test-and-trace system whose dysfunction has been clear for months. Put the two together, and you end up with the drama that is now being replayed over and over again: hapless, hopeless people at the top, trying to fight the pandemic using machinery that has long since rusted to the point of uselessness, while those on the ground insist they could do a better job if only they were given the chance.

Related: UK is at ‘tipping point’ of Covid crisis, says senior health official

Related: Continual lockdowns are not the answer to bringing Covid under control | Devi Sridhar

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Modern, multicultural and surprisingly liberal: this is the real ‘red wall’ | John Harris

Monday, October 5th, 2020

It’s wrong to stereotype Labour’s lost heartlands. They have more in common with metropolitan Britain than you may think

The election of 2019 and the political climate surrounding it now feel like relics of a different age. But one of the key elements of those distant weeks has stuck around: the concept of the red wall, a byword for the post-industrial places in the Midlands, the north of England and north Wales that were once solidly loyal to Labour but now have new Conservative MPs.

In the Guardian, Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour’s virtual conference was framed as urging “red-wall voters to ‘take another look at Labour’”. Last week, protests by north-east Tory MPs about Covid restrictions were characterised as a “red wall revolt”, while government plans to abolish district councils boiled down to an attempt to “shore up the red wall”.

Related: One in three ‘red wall’ families £1,000 a year worse off under Tory plans

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