Public Discourse, Political Leaders and the Paradox of Blame

If anyone is to be blamed for the Brexit result it must surely be David Cameron. He called the referendum hoping to quash the arguments from the far right of the party once and for all. He did not succeed in getting the result he campaigned for partly because the country is fed up with the ‘Notting Hill Set’ smugly calling the shots and partly because politicians at the heart of the Tory Party, notably Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, rather than lending their support to David Cameron, saw this as an opportunity to jump ship and bat for the other side. Having promised to stay in office as Prime Minister come what may Cameron broke his promise and resigned within hours of the referendum result. The public hardly batted an eye, well-used to politicians who promise one thing and do another.

It is reasonable to think that those who see the Brexit vote as unfortunate would apportion blame to those on the right of the political spectrum, but, paradoxically, it is Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, who has faced the most criticism and the most blame for the decision to exit the EU. The argument was that Corbyn did not campaign fiercely enough on the Remain side, although more Labour voters voted Remain than Tory voters. Those on the right of the Labour Party used the dumping of blame on Corbyn, a story they themselves perpetuated, as a reason, or perhaps a pretext, for contesting Corbyn’s leadership. As a further paradoxical twist in the tale despite a second resounding win for Corbyn last month those on the right of the Party continue to blame the leader for divisiveness, even though Corbyn himself constantly pleads for unity.

Another example where blame seems to have been unfairly apportioned is the continuing narrative about supposed anti-Semitism within the labour party.  To say that many in the Labour Party have serious objections to Israeli politics is uncontroversial, but to  use this as a pretext for accusations of anti-Semitism is scarcely tenable.  Levels of anti-semitism within the labour party are no more than within other political parties as shown in the Home Affairs Committee’s recent report.  To make recommendations, as the report does, to redefine the term ‘anti-Semitism’ to include any reference to Zionism is a devious way to continue to target the Labour Party in the blame culture. When the apportioning of blame is so clearly paradoxical it makes sense to ask who is controlling the narrative.

These examples of perverse inversions of natural logic show that the construction of an edifice of blame depends entirely on the flow of public discourse. The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, though initially in favour of Remain, is now, apparently, pushing for a hard and early Brexit. It is impossible to tell what her real intentions are. She keeps tight control over the narrative, reducing the flow of information inscrutably to virtually zero. One can only wonder what insanely paradoxical inversion of natural logic might at some later stage begin to emerge from this wall of diplomatic secrecy.

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