Theresa May must go

What the Tory campaign lacked, moreover, was a major economic proposal to create jobs and lift the economy by cutting taxes and regulations. On the contrary it was full of proposals for regulatory intervention. “Mayism” is rooted in the idea that a strong state could improve the lot of the workers, reduce inequality, and generally do good. In the context of Brexit this amounted to arguing that Britain should break free of the controls and regulations of Brussels in order to impose its own better controls and regulations.

This was a self-conscious rejection of free-market enterprise — of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, which not the is only tradition within Toryism but is by far the most creative and successful one in recent years. It is a serious defect of the Tory party that May was able to impose her odd economic vision — a kind of paternalist social democracy — on it with relatively little resistance, largely because it thought she was a winner. She herself would have been better served if, like Margaret Thatcher, she had been forced by opposition in her own ranks to fight for her ideas and thus to learn to distinguish between the good, the bad, and the ugly. She was visibly unable to make her case on complex issues during the campaign.

As a result she was unable to make the kind of effective attacks on Corbyn’s crankish economics in which Thatcher specialized against Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Yet that is now very needed. A wild and erratic spirit of socialism is again loose in the world. Corbyn is the perfect spokesman for this aggressive left-wing ideology because his gentlemanly reasonableness disguises its ruthless nature. It needs to be confronted with tough, intelligent, forensic criticism, not appeasement. Mayism is not that and will, fortunately, evaporate quickly when she goes.