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Editor’s diary: Adam Smith gets a rebrand for 21st century politics

Christian May
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It’s high time the badge of neoliberalism was worn with pride. (Source: Getty)

We hear a lot about neoliberalism these days. More often than not it’s a phrase thrown around by pro-Corbyn activists as a form of insult that ranks alongside “Blairite”. Indeed, you’ll often hear the two phrases together. Owen Smith, who challenged Corbyn for the leadership on a policy platform of higher taxes, nationalisations and state expenditure was denounced by many on the hard-left as a relic of the “neoliberal Blairite agenda”.

One of Corbyn’s earliest backers in the media, Owen Jones, infamously declared that life under the Chavez regime in Venezuela represented “a progressive alternative to the neoliberal consensus”. As that country falls into chaos, starvation and ruin I imagine many Venezuelans would welcome a bit of neoliberalism and the choice, prosperity and freedom it tends to bring about.

It remains the case that among elements of the media and commentariat neoliberalism is a phrase used interchangeably with “market forces” or “capitalism” and is invariably presented as an unfortunate condition about which we ought to feel ashamed.

How refreshing, therefore, to see one of this country’s brightest and most important think-tanks set about reclaiming and celebrating the brand of neoliberalism. Free-market wonks at The Adam Smith Institute claim that for them, neoliberal means being pro-markets, pro-growth, globalist, optimistic, open-minded and focused on changing the world for the better.

Read more: Theresa May's statism won't deliver a more prosperous post-Brexit Britain

In adopting the label of “free-market neoliberals” the think-tank is dropping the phrase “libertarian” with which it has previously been associated, noting that in the UK libertarianism basically means a near total abolition of the state, which is something the Adam Smith gang fall short of advocating. It also can’t have slipped their attention that Theresa May railed against “the libertarian right” in her conference speech. Either way, it’s high time the badge of neoliberalism was worn with pride.

IoD slams May’s immigration legacy

Hats off to the IoD, calling for a comprehensive immigration review – which is a nice way of saying that current immigration policy has comprehensively failed. Who was the architect of current policy? That would be Theresa May. Simon Walker only has a few months left as the head of the IoD and it’s good to see him using them to bang the drum on such an important issue. He’ll be missed – though perhaps not by our new PM.

Top dog at Treasury survives Tyrie debut

Andrew Tyrie, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, is not a man to pull his punches. The new top dog at HMT, Tom Scholar, was asked in front of Tyrie yesterday “Back in 2008 were you the man on point for sleeping on the sofa?”. I’m told this wasn’t a reprimand for being asleep on the job as the world collapsed, but a nod to the fact that Treasury civil servants at the time barely left the office for days, catching some shut-eye as and when they could.

Read more: Boris on Brexit: Foreign minister says doom-mongers have been proven wrong

German embassy gets into a Brexit spin

To the German ambassador’s residence for a celebration of US-EU business ties. No prizes for guessing the elephant in the room. While the diplomatic chatter was all about “challenging circumstances” the topic of Brexit was discussed loud and clear by just about everyone else. Indeed, there was a surprisingly high number of Brexiters at the bash, including Ukip MEP Suzanne Evans and chief Leave strategist Matthew Elliott. How sporting to invite them.

Regs up in smoke

One of the benefits of Brexit (since we’re all looking for them amid the plunging pound) is that we will, ultimately, be able to extricate ourselves from counter-productive EU regulations. The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive is a case in point. As it stands, it lumps vaping and e-cig products in with fags, applying draconian restrictions on advertising and sales. As MPs noted in a debate yesterday, ministers should now take an urgent look at a more light-touch approach to regulation.

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