‘Blame the EU’. ‘Blame the Media’. Or even, ‘Blame the Referee’. We all do it. We deflect blame by blaming others when things go wrong. It’s easy. Just blame someone or something else. The buck doesn’t need to stop with you! If my football team loses this weekend, I can always blame the referee (and I will do!).
However, we now have a government, who are deliberately and consistently using the blame game to deflect opinion away from their own shortcomings. They are again using the EU as a scapegoat for their own failing policies and that of their own withdrawal agreement. Bizarrely, this is the agreement they not only wrote and signed but the one they stated in the general election was an ‘oven ready’ deal that would ‘Get Brexit Done’. This is clearly not the case and they are now openly prepared to break international law and deflect the blame for this onto the EU and its negotiators.
Of course, the EU and its various personalities has been a target for the government and the majority of the UK press for years. The EU is far from perfect and maybe they failed to properly communicate their decisions or explained why EU membership was so desirable and positive but they are also far less able to defend themselves when their access to the UK media is more limited than that of the national government. The EU is often portrayed as a political elite; however, the present UK government can hardly be seen to be representative of so-called ‘ordinary people’. In the UK, we have a consistently, public school educated political elite of our own, with yet another ex Etonian prime minister. His inflammatory rhetoric is again making the EU the scapegoat for problems his government, for a large part, either created or consciously ignored.
Since 2010, UK governments had attempted to reduce government spending and national debt by deep cuts to the public sector and the welfare state. These cuts disproportionately affected those on the lowest incomes and in areas seemingly left behind by globalization and where traditional heavy industry was disappearing. This austerity provided the political and economic background in which Vote Leave developed its argument. Given that a considerable number of those in the Vote Leave campaign were supporters of austerity and are now in government is an extraordinary act of political double-speak to which they add crass populism and scapegoating.
During the referendum campaign, immigrants, the EU and foreign bureaucrats were regularly blamed for many the UK’s social problems, from violent crime, austerity to funding problems for the NHS. Since the referendum, hate crimes against immigrants and ethnic minorities and EU bashing has increased. This form of dangerous scapegoating with its bullying overtones of ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’ singles out a person, a minority or a group for unmerited blame and negative treatment. History warns us that the blame game and scapegoating can have dangerous consequences, especially for individuals and minorities who are discredited and represented as being worth less or not fitting in and belonging.
So, who is to blame? Can the government continue to scapegoat the EU and to blame others for the Brexit debacle and their shambolic handling of Covid, school examinations, public safety and the lack of adherence to the law. How can a government be regarded as being competent when it is so flagrantly irresponsible?
Who will they blame next? Maybe they’ll point to the results and blame the referee.
Martin Griffiths lives in Tewkesbury