The answer is a hatred of free markets, free trade and free enterprise plus a belief that the solution to our supposed economic problems is economic nationalism. All these fine men promote nationalisation, speak of the evils of foreign investment, and play to the fears of workers about foreigners, big business and the bankers.
I considered heading this article with some like "In which Peter Hitchens goes full Fascist" but that would be a little polemical. Hitchens has, for over twenty years now, conducted a one man hate fest directed at the Conservative Party. On more than one occasion he has used his pulpit to pray for the Party's destruction so it must be a cause of deep and personal pain that this organisation he despises so much got it self elected with an overall majority in the UK parliament.
I am so sorry now that I fell for the great Thatcher-Reagan promise. I can’t deny that I did. I believed all that stuff about privatisation and free trade and the unrestrained market. I think I may even have been taken in by the prophecies of a great share-owning democracy.
And more along these lines, not based on any actual facts or anything as mundane as research, just Hitchens' absolute belief that the Conservative Party and all its works is a thing of great evil. So what we get is an advert for Hitchen's Conservatism - one essentially indistinguishable from that of Donald Trump. It's a sort of admission of defeat, a belief that inside a cosy little barrier built from tariffs, bans and protections we will be reborn as a 'great nation' filled with horny-handed sons of toil bashing away making things. I can see the posters lifting the spirits of our nation now, images of those workers looking to a noble future arm in arm with their families.
Britain, for the Hitchens of this world, is crying out for a new direction - a New Party - that rejects globalisation, foreign investment, free trade and the idea that running a restaurant is as noble a pursuit as pouring molten steel from British blast furnaces. The world conjured up by Hitchens and Trump is a dystopia where foreigners, drug dealers, shadowy businessmen and venal politicians conspire to do down the decent, honest working men of Britain and America. It is a fearful place where only a powerful state with a strong leader can protect what little is left of our greatness.
This is the dark side of conservatism, the place where nationalism and a sense of national injustice push aside the hopeful and aspirational conservatism that yearns for people to be free, for them to be able to make their own choices and live their own lives. This is the consequence of an obsession with security - national security, community safety, energy security, food security, local resilience - that acts only to justify the longer reach of the state, that fools people again into thinking that our telephone services before privatisation was in any way at all better than the service we enjoy today.
This is the world where the intervention of government in industry, supposedly driven by some sort of 'industrial strategy', is determined by political considerations, by the imminence of elections and the influence of union barons or the media. Billions of our taxes are splurged on bailing out industries, mountains of tariffs are built and, before we know it, prices are being fixed and markets set in stasis with the result being decline, poverty and economic collapse.
It'll look so fine at the start as Hitchens' New Party winds back the liberalisation of the Thatcher years. Vital national industries are defined, plans and strategies are written, solid, broad-bottomed men are set onto the boards of the industries - Great Britain is reborn. And then it doesn't work - small exporting manufacturers close because they can't compete, the higher taxes needed to pay for the intervention mean less investment and billions of foreign investment gets relocated to places that are more friendly, more likely to provide a return on those billions.
It's easy to talk of a lost age of 'making':
A journey across the heart of England, once an exhilarating vista of muscular manufacturing, especially glorious by night, turned into archaeology. Now, if it looked like a factory, it was really a ruin.
But this covers over the deeper truth - that we are so much richer and happier than we were when those industries were booming. It's a myth that we are poorer for the loss of dirty, unpleasant dangerous jobs down mines, in foundries and in factories. We are not poorer - the children of those workers are mostly doing better paid and safer jobs of offices and will live to be 80 or older rather than dying painfully in their sixties of industrial diseases. Even Hitchens reluctantly hints at this betterment with his talk of luxuries, better coffee and better restaurants.
These are not fripperies but things that - in Hitchens' golden age - used only to be there for the rich and powerful. The miners, steel workers and factory hands of that age of glory didn't have a decent car (if at all), never went to restaurants and couldn't afford a foreign holiday. Today's equivalent worker has all those things plus a bewildering array of new stuff - smartphones, digital TVs, ice-makers, microwave ovens, power tools and fridge freezers. And their children - our children - will be even richer, having things we can only imagine right now.
But we'll only get those things if we cling to the revolution for which Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are rightly praised - free trade, free markets and the celebration of free enterprise. Building walls - real or regulatory - isn't a route to poverty not a salvation. And economic nationalism - whether it's sold to us a 'socialist' by a Labour shadow chancellor or 'conservative' by a Daily Mail columnist - always, everywhere, gets worse results than the free trade it forces out.
The evidence from approaching four decades of neoliberalism, of our embracing a global economy, is that it has led to the biggest, sustained improvement of well-being in human history. To throw all this aside to indulge in an orgy of self-pitying nationalism would be an act of monumental folly. Yet that folly is just what Peter Hitchens, John McDonnell and Donald Trump are offering.