“We need to reinvigorate the politics of optimism” says former UK prime minister Tony Blair, as freedom of speech and Brexit dominate The Economist’s Open Future Festival.

Last Updated on: 21st November 2023, 08:46 pm

The newspaper marked its 175th anniversary with a debate on the need to reinvent liberalism for the 21st century

London, United Kingdom: September 16th 2018. To mark its 175th anniversary, The Economist yesterday hosted the Open Future Festival, running simultaneously across London, Hong Kong and New York. The event examined the biggest challenges facing free markets and open societies.

Opening the London leg of the festival were Economist Executive Editor Daniel Franklin and Rosie Blau, Editor of 1843. They emphasised that it was not a celebration but a hard look at liberalism, both echoing the essay published in this week’s newspaper: “Reinventing liberalism for the 21st century.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The Economist Finance Editor Helen Joyce, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, offered his advice that there is a need to “reinvigorate the politics of optimism.”

“I think the problem is when we look for people to blame, whether it’s business on the left or immigrants on the right, rather than understanding that this is a world of change and we need to master it.” Blair added.

Speaking about Brexit, Blair also suggested that the EU should “make us an offer”’ to help counter the ‘paralysis in the British Parliament.”

“None of the problems that Britain has and the challenges it faces are going to be easier to resolve out of Europe. They are actually going to be easier to resolve in Europe.”

Brexit was a dominant theme throughout the day at the London festival. Mr Blair called on the UK’s Labour party to back a second referendum, and predicted that they would get a 20 point poll lead if they did.

Offering some advice to his party, Mr Blair said: “The best response would be to go back to the people and say – look, we have had two-and-a-half years of this negotiation, we now know all the options, do you want to proceed or do you want to stay.”

After 175 years, The Economist continues to be guided by the words of founder James Wilson, that the newspaper should take part in a “severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

Complacency and social media were just two of several other vital issues raised during the festival. Complacency of the liberal order to not realise the issues that have played a part in the rise of populism were raised were by numerous speakers. As was the role that social media is playing in political discourse, and how it needs to become the purveyor of accurate, fact-checked news and debate.

“The Economist at 175: How to reinvent liberalism for the 21st century” essay: https://econ.st/2MtIu3D
“The Economist at 175: A manifesto” cover lead article: https://econ.st/2NJuneS

Video from the Open Future Festival is available here: https://www.youtube.com/user/EconomistMagazine/videos

To read more about the Open Future initiative, please visit: https://www.economist.com/openfuture

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