John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘Normal’ life failed us. The coronavirus crisis gives us the chance to rethink a new economy | John Harris

It’s now clear that drastic changes are needed: the Labour party cannot afford to play it safe

About a month ago, many people I know on the political left were brimming with the belief that the Covid-19 crisis opened the way for a watershed conversation about deep social change. Now, as the full horror of the UK’s coronavirus experience becomes clearer and we begin to understand an all-enveloping crisis whose effects will be felt for years, that mood seems to have been supplanted by a pained mixture of anxiety and fatalism. On a bad day, our national nightmare now appears so deep and complex as to feel not just depressing, but insurmountable.

But from a somewhat unlikely source, there was recently a note of hope. Around the time of the recent VE Day celebrations, the journalist and historian Max Hastings – something of a freethinker, but also someone with a classic establishment background – wrote a piece for the Times. His jumping-off point was the social revolution that began in 1945, but he quickly moved his focus to 2020. “The present crisis seems destined again to change the face of Britain, unleashing demands for social, political and economic reform unprecedented in our memories,” said this one-time editor of the Daily Telegraph. To him, the immediate future was clear: “The polo season, figuratively speaking, is over.”

The dysfunctional centralisation of power in England, a blind spot for both the left and right, needs to be reversed

Related: The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing | Erica Chenoweth, Austin, Choi-Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Pressman, Felipe G Santos and Jay Ulfelder

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