Certainly the Tories’ transformation, over the past year and a half, is nothing short of remarkable. Historically, they were derided as “the stupid party,” a description they accepted as a backhanded compliment: They were solid, salt of the earth; they were practical rather than theoretical; they eschewed progressive fantasy (what Orwell called “abstract thought”) in favor of sensible policies.
In the wake of the Brexit referendum, the British Conservative Party changed. Some of the cabinet, including, it seems, the hapless (and, during her conference speech, briefly voiceless) prime minister, have quietly concluded that Britain should transition out of the European Union slowly and stay inside the European customs union for as long as possible, to avoid tariffs, customs bureaucracy and the horror of a new “hard” border across Ireland. But unmoored from their old Burkean suspicion of radicalism, many Tories dislike this idea of gradual change. Some are still imagining sweetheart deals with the E.U. that will never happen: This is what Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, at first called “having our cake and eating it,” and now calls “glorious Brexit.”