For that to happen, the Tories must win a majority and wage a 10-year battle to save capitalism itself
This election is really about saving capitalism. Brexit is a means to an end: a necessary step to reboot our failing institutions, propel a reconstructed Tory party to power via a fresh electoral coalition, and allow Boris Johnson to do what it takes to convince the public to reject revolutionary socialism once and for all.
If Thatcherism was the answer to the implosion of the dirigiste, high-tax, trade union and Keynesian models of the Seventies, Brexit and Johnsonism are the only realistic solution to the resurgence of radical statist ideas in the 2010s. It will take a dollop of luck, at least 10 years in power, and there is no Plan B. If it doesn’t work out, we will end up in a catastrophic neo-Marxist hell hole, if not in four weeks then in a few years’ time.
- Read Allister Heath’s latest column on telegraph.co.uk every Wednesday night from 9.30pm
Across the West, the forces of the extreme Left are on the march, buoyed by the legacy of the financial crisis, the “progressive” Gramsciite march through the institutions and the rise of a new generation of graduates who don’t know what a gulag even is.
Britain, thanks to the referendum, has a chance of finding a way out of this nightmare, as Boris and his key advisers understand. The Tories may blow it, and many of their footsoldiers don’t even understand the role they are playing in this much bigger game, but there is, in truth, no other hope.
The challenge (and opportunity) for Conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians and anybody vaguely on the centre-Right is simple. The public are far more “Right-wing” on many issues than many realise, but they are also simultaneously much more “Left‑wing” on others.
They voted for Brexit, a powerful repudiation of the technocratic approach that has been in the ascendent for years. They are tough on welfare for those who can work. They want controlled immigration. They don’t want to shut down private schools, even though they may feel class envy towards those who use them. They dislike inheritance tax, even though they don’t usually pay it. But whereas they want to pay less tax themselves, they believe that people who are richer than them should pay more, at least in the abstract. They love the NHS, and aren’t interested in any discussion about shifting towards a better model of healthcare provision. They support extending the welfare state further into social care.
It gets worse: a YouGov poll shows that raising income tax rate to 50 per cent on those earning more than £123,000 has 64 per cent support, hiking it to 45 per cent on those on £80,000 has 60 per cent backing, as has forcing workers on to company boards (54 per cent) and nationalising the railways and utilities (45 to 56 per cent). The finding that keeps me awake at night is that 53 per cent back a wealth tax, and just 30 per cent oppose one. Even among Tories, the split is 53-36 against, and most Brexit Party voters back one. Yet taxing assets is one of the worst public policies devised: it leads to total ruin. The only good news is that the public’s distrust of Jeremy Corbyn is so intense, his reputation so tainted, that they believe his policies would trigger a recession. But a more charismatic socialist demagogue could easily win the day.
The public’s anti-capitalism is unsurprising. Nobody has been making the case properly for the free markets since the early 2000s; home ownership and share ownership are on the wane; there is mass dissatisfaction with some large businesses; wages haven’t risen enough; and there has been no Conservative cultural counter-offensive based around the promotion of freedom, individualism, meritocracy and the ability of families to make their own decisions. The “Right” needs to fight back and shift public opinion decisively, or it will be annihilated.
This is why Nigel Farage and David Gauke are both making a similar mistake. Farage deserves immense credit for saving Brexit from Theresa May, but he should stand down in the Tories’ top 100 target seats. Failing that, Brexit Party candidates should do the right thing themselves while there is still time. Gauke is a believer in sound money, but his decision to stand as an independent and to urge others to vote Lib Dem is delusional. He has allowed his hatred of Brexit and his ultra-soft views on crime to warp his judgment.