John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for August, 2021

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In the chaos of Britain’s labour shortage, could workers forge better lives? | John Harris

Monday, August 30th, 2021

Our dysfunctional labour market was reliant on a pool of exploitable workers

Empty shelves, missing product lines and the rising sense of a country that may not be able to feed itself: despite still being underplayed by most of the media, the results of Britain’s labour shortages are now ubiquitous.

Fruit growers warn that their crops are simply being left to rot. For want of regular workers, meat-processing plants are set to employ prisoners. The shortage of lorry drivers means that McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes. After 18 months of misery and disruption, most of us seem to be responding with fatalistic shrugs, although the situation also brings to mind a cliched but pointed question: can you imagine the reaction if this was happening under a Labour government?

Related: So what’s so wrong with labour shortages driving up low wages? | Larry Elliott

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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Brexit and Covid have created the perfect moment for the politics of crackdown | John Harris

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

We feel besieged and imperilled, and the Johnson government is seizing the chance to weaken our most fundamental liberties

If you were wondering when the widely predicted post-Brexit dystopia might move beyond the imaginings of TV scriptwriters and into the real world, we suddenly seem to be a lot of the way there. Supermarket shelves are either understocked or completely empty. The populist loudmouths who now try to make the political weather have been taking aim in the past week at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and its supposedly “woke” lifesavers.

Meanwhile, the Johnson government’s descent into whip-crack law enforcement continues apace. Last week’s announcement of a new “crime reduction plan” was centred around the permanent relaxation of restrictions on “suspicionless” (in other words, often arbitrary) stop and search, which had a clear performative aspect: ministers blithely batting away the fact that black people are a staggering 18 times more likely to be searched than white people under these specific powers, presumably to demonstrate a wretched kind of toughness. Johnson also launched plans for chain gangs dressed in hi-vis jackets.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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