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So what was it that persuaded her to place such trust in people who were so different to her — and in the end, so harmful to her? The short answer is that I don’t know. Maybe she herself doesn’t know. Did she know how off-putting and destructive their arrogance and intransigence could be? Although they were usually well-behaved in her presence, she must have had a pretty good idea of how they worked and how much they alienated other people who wanted to help her.

Did she agree with their ideas as well as their methods? Nick Timothy is credited with creating “May-ism”, if such a thing exists. But I am not sure that it does. Theresa May herself is an old-fashioned Conservative of a pre-Thatcher kind. She trusts individuals and institutions rather than ideas, and she has a very strong sense that it is much easier to make things worse by intervening in order to try to change them than it is to make them better. The Conservatives used to be called “the stupid party” because they didn’t have an ideology and didn’t want one. They felt that politicians with ideas were a menace: ideas made politicians think that they could change the way people behaved and the way society worked; politicians with ideas believed they were entitled to use force to bring about their schemes for social improvement. But to old-fashioned Conservatives, the fundamental political insight is that people cannot be improved, and the use of state power to try to help them achieve any form of utopia inevitably ends up sinking into the worse kind of tyranny and oppression.

Theresa May is more that variety of old-fashioned Conservative than a Thatcherite ideologue who believes that privatisation and free markets automatically transform society for the better, or that in “setting the people free” by diminishing taxes and ending most forms of state regulation, you take the first steps on the road to the perfect society. She isn’t particularly intellectual. You are more likely to find her reading Harry Potter than Friedrich Hayek. She is not a “conviction politician” in the way that Margaret Thatcher was. Mrs Thatcher had an ideology which allowed her to relate the minutest policy matter to a set of general political principles. Theresa May cannot do that — which is why she can get into a tangle when she tries to explain what principles lie behind her policies.

Last October, not long after she had become Prime Minister, she told the BBC that she was going to implement policies that would “help the working class”. Nick Robinson, the interviewer, invited her to scrap raising the threshold for inheritance tax from £325,000 to £500,000 (one of Cameron’s policies) — because how would that tax cut help the working class? She had no answer. She didn’t even attempt one. Robinson suggested a massive programme of council house building was a policy that might actually help the working class. Would she consider that? Prime Minister May simply changed the subject.

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