Skip to content

PUBLIC LECTURE | Through the Looking Glass: Austerity and the Left in Britain


Free Public Lecture

Start Date

4th Feb 2016 6:00pm

End Date

4th Feb 2016 7:00pm

Institute for the Study of Social Change logo

An Australian International Political Network (AIPEN) and Institute for the Study of Social Change public lecture

Presented by

Professor Andrew Hindmoor, University of Sheffield

Our sense of history defines how we think about who we are. The left has a pretty clear sense of Britain's recent history. It is the history of austerity. The Conservatives returned to office in 2010 and reverted to type. They cut taxes and slashed public expenditure and brushed aside anyone who dared suggest any economic alternatives. The costs of austerity were loaded on to the poor. Labour lost in 2015 because it failed to challenge the Conservatives and instead offered the electorate austerity-light. Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Leader by such an overwhelming majority because he was prepared to say what had happened and why it was wrong.

I think this history is wrong. The history of the last five years is of a Coalition which said it was going to do one thing and then actually did something else. The politics of austerity was present tense. The economics of austerity were rendered future tense. And this turned out to be a pretty good electoral strategy. Austerity is one part of a larger story. The left holds to a remorselessly bleak view of British political history – one in which Margaret Thatcher's election in 1979 marked the start of a still-continuing decline and fall marked by inequality, social decay, rampant individualism, political failure and, above all, the triumph of a free-market neoliberal ideology.

This history is wrong and self-harming. It is wrong because Britain has in many (although not all) respects become a much more politically progressive country over the last four decades. It is self-harming because it undermines faith in politics and breeds a kind of political nihilism.

Andrew Hindmoor is Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Professor of Politics at the University of Queensland. He has written books on banking, governance and rational choice theory and New Labour (including a comparative account of the 2008 financial crisis, Masters of the Universe but Slaves of the Market, with Steve Bell). He is currently writing a revisionist history of modern Britain from a left-wing perspective.

When Thursday 4 February 2016, 6.00pm to 7.00pm (refreshments to follow)

Where Centenary Lecture Theatre, Centenary Building, Sandy Bay Campus

RSVP by Tuesday 2 February 2016

IMAGE SOURCE: Anna & Michal (Flickr)