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But despite appearances, she is not often that certain that she is right. Unlike some politicians, she is not sure that she has all the answers. She has an endearing modesty about her own capacities. She likes to consider the evidence carefully before coming to a conclusion. That takes her time. She does not have the ability that many lawyers and some politicians do of being able to read a brief quickly, identify the salient points, and come to a snap conclusion about what needs to be done. That is why she likes to set up inquiries and consultations — processes which delay the process of decision-taking, and help to reassure her that the decision that eventually emerges will be the right one.

But a fondness for inquiries can also lead to delays and recrimination and to an enormous expenditure of time, money and effort which eventually produces a result which does not satisfy the people whose grievances led to the inquiry being set up. The Independent Inquiry into Child Abuse allegations, which Mrs May set up when she was Home Secretary, looks to be heading straight into that particular hole. The inquiry has already gone through three Chairmen, and is now on its fourth; it has lost its most senior lawyer; it has yet to take any evidence; and it is being boycotted by one important victims’ organisation. It seems very unlikely that it will produce the definitive conclusions that will bring “closure” for the victims — which was what was hoped for when it was established.

The combination of the absence of a concrete, worked-out ideology and a lack of intellectual confidence is almost certainly why she made another much more unfortunate decision: her refusal to debate with Jeremy Corbyn directly on television or anywhere. The effect of that decision was that Corbyn’s claims went unchallenged. To the voting public, it made it seem as if she did not want to argue with him because she could not argue with him: she wasn’t up to it, and she knew it. She was frightened that she would lose.

This was another case where public perception of Mrs May is at odds with the truth. She is good at thinking on her feet — her parliamentary record demonstrates it. Jeremy Corbyn’s political philosophy is not exactly sophisticated. Even she would have had no difficulty in pointing out the ludicrousness of his silly socialist outlook. But if most people today think she has nothing with which to oppose his Marxist ideas, she has only herself to blame.

The lack of intellectual confidence can also help explain why Theresa May is liable to sudden policy reversals in the face of criticism. Her response to the criticism of the Manifesto’s “dementia tax” is one example: she immediately said the Conservatives would drop its most criticised features, a reaction that clearly made many voters wonder about why she had adopted them in the first place. Her repeated insistence that “nothing has changed” was transparently not true, and it did nothing for her credibility. Another example of an instant climbdown is the policy — which she advocated and implemented as Home Secretary — of issuing notices instructing illegal migrants to leave Britain and return to their native countries. This involved having vans with the advice plastered over their sides driving through areas thought to have high numbers of illegal migrants. The result was an immediate outcry in the media against what some commentators thought was an insulting and prejudiced campaign. Within days, Mrs May announced in Parliament that she had withdrawn the vans. She claimed that they had not produced the results expected of them.
 
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