John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for May, 2021

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Hands, face and empty space: where Covid has left politics – video

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Among vacant shops and 15% unemployment, John Harris and John Domokos get immersed in Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic. Amid despair, they discover hope – focused not on a Tory/Labour race for mayor, but communities brilliantly helping themselves 

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Labour’s crisis comes from the huge gap between politics and people | John Harris

Sunday, May 9th, 2021

Out in the real world, grassroots work shows where the left’s renewal will have to start

In some parts of Birmingham, around one in seven people are currently out of work. There are areas of the city in which child poverty is about 50%. And like so much of this country, it is a place now full of empty spaces: pubs, shopping centres – and, atop the redeveloped New Street station, a vast and newly vacant branch of John Lewis.

When the store opened, John Lewis’s managing director was Andy Street. Two years later, against plenty of expectations, he became the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands region. On Saturday, it was confirmed that Street had beaten his Labour adversary, Liam Byrne, and been elected for the second time. Here was proof, as in Hartlepool, that hard times are no barrier to success for the Tories. But his success was also a symbol of something even more significant: a crisis for Labour and the left that goes far beyond the so-called red wall and deep into the past.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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Britain’s overgrown Eton schoolboys have turned the country into their playground | John Harris

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

The reckless disdain of Boris Johnson and David Cameron is evidence of the institutional elitism blighting our politics

Over the past fortnight, the news from Westminster has rather resembled a weird play about pre-revolutionary France, or Tsarist Russia circa 1916.

In some parts of the country, the rate of unemployment runs at 15%. Six million people are now reckoned to be on universal credit. I was in Birmingham this week, where I heard lots of talk about the impossibility of finding work, and local businesses hanging on by their fingernails. But every time I switched on the radio, I heard a twisted soap opera about money, taste (or the lack of it) and a prime minister who is reportedly having difficulty getting by on £150,000 a year. Boris Johnson’s alleged insistence that he was minded to “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” rather than impose another lockdown suggests a Bourbon or Romanov driven to exasperation by the necessity of difficult choices. There is something similarly monarchical about the swift binning of the £2.6m Downing Street briefing room – further proof, it seems, that austerity need only worry the plebs.

Related: Forget curtains and cash – Johnson’s legacy will be the bitter taste of Brexit | Polly Toynbee

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