By Sean Gabb
Though she was the only candidate not manifestly unfit to keep watch on a public toilet, I groaned when Theresa May became Prime Minister. She had been a dreadful Home Secretary. In the Referendum, she had formally supported the Remain side. There was reason to suspect, given its abbreviated manner, that her appointment was some kind of Plan B by the Conservative Party establishment to ignore the will of the people.
I have just watched her speech to the Conservative Party Conference. As these things go, its wording was unusually transparent, and its delivery neither patronising nor robotic. It supports an hypothesis I formed shortly after her appointment, and that I have so far seen little evidence to overturn. This is that those parts of the British ruling class represented by the Conservative Party have decided to risk an almost complete break with the European Union. This may not have been something they wanted before the Referendum, but is something that they have now decided is most congruent with their interest. I will explain.
First, leaving the European Union unites the Conservative Party. This has been split since at least 1970, and the split was largely between the Party leadership and its membership and normal electorate. It became apparent when Edward Heath forced through the European Communities Act 1972. It contributed to the Conservative defeat in 1974. Without ever closing, it became less of a wound during the high days of Margaret Thatcher, but worsened again once she began her decline after 1987. It may have ruined the Major Government. It certainly contributed to the internal chaos that allowed the rise of Tony Blair to go uncontested. It did much to keep the Conservatives out of government before 2010.