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The Lies We Were Told: A Lecture by Simon Wren-Lewis

23 May
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The Lies We Were Told

The last decade in the UK has been extraordinary. Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Oxford University and member of the PEF Council, posits that it has been shaped by three big lies in which the mainstream media were complicit.

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 Brexit, where one part of the media acted as propagandists and the other part balanced truth with lies.

In this special public lecture, hosted by the Progressive Economy Forum, Professor Wren-Lewis will explore the phenomena behind these lies, building on the themes in his most recent book The Lies We Were Told(Bristol University Press). He argues that much can by explained by the idea of ‘neoliberal overreach’: attempts to pursue neoliberal goals that are no longer popular by deceiving the public, e.g. by lying about the need to eliminate the deficit and/or reduce immigration.

These deceptions influenced the result of the EU referendum, which itself involved a split between neoliberals who wanted to be free to trade and those who wanted trade free from regulations they did not like. But contemporary accounts of neoliberal overreach typically underestimate the causal role of the media in all these events: how it has involved a culture of lying which the media either participates in or tolerates.

Simon will be joined by renowned writer and commentator Rachel Shabi, contributor at the Guardian and Professor Aeron Davis, Deputy Head of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London alongside other speakers TBC.

For more information, please contact Adam Peggs at We look forward to seeing you there!

Speaker biography:

Simon Wren-Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow at Merton College. He has published papers on macroeconomics in a wide range of academic journals, including the Economic Journal, European Economic Review, and American Economic Review, and since becoming an academic he has advised H.M.Treasury, the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund and the Office for Budget Responsibility.

He began his career as an economist in H.M.Treasury, and his academic work has often had a strong policy focus. A long time advocate of Fiscal Councils, his 2007 proposal was influential in the formation of the UK‘s Office of Budget Responsibility. He was a member the Labour Party's Economic Advisory Council from 2015 to 2016. Since 2011, he has written extensively about macroeconomic policy in the UK and the Eurozone in various national media outlets and on his blog, which won the New Statesman/SPERI Prize in Political Economy in 2016.

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