Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Saturday 11 May 2019

Lecture on The Lies We Were Told

Too busy to write a post today, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to publicise my forthcoming lecture and discussion on my book. Its at Kings College, Bush House, 44-46 Aldwych, London at 7pm on 23rd May. I’m lucky to have Rachel Shabi, contributor at the Guardian and Professor Aeron Davis, Deputy Head of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London to lead the discussion. The lecture is organised by The Progressive Economy Forum, and further details are here.

In the lecture I want to focus on three big lies told by politicians but also aided and abetted by the media. By big I mean lies that led to profound changes in most peoples lives or how we are governed. The first was austerity, where most of the media ignored mainstream economics and pushed the nonsensical idea that we should reduce the deficit in the middle of a recession. The second was the 2015 election, where the slowest recovery for centuries and unprecedented falling real wages were sold as a strong economy. The third was immigration, where scare stories in the right wing press fueled fears in parts of the country that had seen very little immigration. Together with similar disinformation about the EU, this culminated in Brexit, where one part of the media acted as propagandists and the other part balanced truth with lies.

These lies did not come out of nowhere. They were part of what I call neoliberal overreach, by which I mean using political deceit on a grand scale to pursue neoliberal ideas. William Hague when leader of the opposition talked about the UK becoming a ‘foreign land’. Neoliberals had no interest in curbing immigration beyond its ability to capture votes. Once in government you had austerity, which used deceit about the imperative of reducing the deficit to shrink the state. I discuss the extent to which even Brexit can be included as neoliberal overreach. Deceit requires lying to the public in a major way, which was only made possible by the support of the right wing press and the broadcast media turning a blind eye.

It is free (of course) but you do need to book your ticket here Hope to see you there, .


  1. I'm not so sure about the media ignoring mainstream economics on austerity. Lots of respectable economists prescribed austerity after 2008. Indeed, even the IMF prescribed austerity after the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and for Greece after 2008. Austerity for poor countries and deficit spending for rich countries hardly seems fair.

  2. So in an article on “The Lies We Were Told” there is an assertion based upon zero evidence that.

    “Neoliberals had no interest in curbing immigration beyond its ability to capture votes.”

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking.


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