England Ethics Justice Politics

The Blame Game and The Demonisation of Theresa May

Heading for Australia I wrote about Leaving the Country – Reflections on a Hysterical Britain  Whilst enjoying being here it seems that the collective hysteria gripping the country back home seems to be increasing.  None more so than in the reaction to the horrific fire tragedy at the Grenfell Tower.  Over 70 people are dead or missing, all apparently as the result of an electrical fault with a fridge.  It is a time for mourning…but in the messed up emotional world that is the UK at the moment, it is not mourning but blaming that is the name of the game.

Who is to blame?  

  1. Jeremy Corbyn?   – one report was that he voted in favour of exempting tower blocks built before 2007 from requiring sprinklers.  Not true.  This was just another example of fake news.

    Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington and Chelsea with her leader

Corbyn is seen as a hero  – he was the one hugging the people and showing his compassion.  But all is not quite what it seems.   There appears to be a somewhat cynical manipulation of this tragedy for party political ends and that is very dangerous.   The Labour party is not entirely clean on this one.  Grenfell tower was a council built property, built under a Labour government but most astonishing is the fact that the new Labour MP for Kensington, sat on the local board that oversaw the safety of Grenfell Tower .  That is a far bigger scandal. Labour MP was on Housing Committee overseeing Grenfell

And Sadiq Khan – He is the Labour mayor in charge of the city.  Khan has a record of downloadhaving taken £10,000 in donations from a property firm which was found guilty of putting tenets lives at risk.    Is it not a bit strange that some people are quick to blame the Prime Minister of the country who has no direct responsibility for housing in London, but have said nothing about the mayor of the city where it occurred, who does?

2.  Gentrification?  –

Kensington which has just elected a Labour MP is the richest constituency in the whole of the UK.  There is a strange paradox here – those who are wanting to use this tragedy to refight the General Election are apparently the nouveau champagne socialists (IPOS Mori have just put out research which shows that the Tories got a far higher percentage of the working class vote since 1979, and Labour got a far higher middle class vote.).  Why is this relevant to the blame game?  Because the reason there was £10 million worth of flammable cladding is because the good people of Kensington wanted their social housing to look good.  There is a great deal of hypocrisy in the reactions to all of this – not least from rich celebrities like Lily Allen who probably never darkened the door of the peasants tower block, but now are full of ‘compassion and anger’.   It’s handy when you have deaths that you can use for your cause.

3.  The Residents?

Or here’s another one – why not blame the immigrants?  If the country wasn’t so overcrowded then we wouldn’t have these kind of dangerous situations happening.   Of course its a ridiculous argument but that doesn’t stop it being made.  I’ve read of those who blamed the residents for blocked stairwells etc.

4. The Management?

What about the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)?   The KCTMO has a board comprising eight residents (tenants or leaseholders), four council-appointed members, and three independent members.  Do they not bear some responsibility?

5.  The Government?

But most of the responsibility seems to have been laid, not on the local Council, or the mayor or the management but the Government.  They do have a lot to answer for (as do the others)  and an inquiry must not shirk from showing what is wrong with social housing in the UK.  And not just the British government but also the Scottish.  According to the Scottish Sunday Mail this particular cladding was axed from Scottish Councils in 2013 but after Scottish government intervention it was then again permitted.  This has not stopped Scottish government ministers sticking the boot into May as though she were personally responsible.

In the blame game nuance is not allowed and simplistic solutions must be found.  Hence  it must all be the fault of the evil Tories. Lets not mention the support that the government is offering? The offer to rehouse within three weeks, the money etc.   Who cares?  We just select what suits our bias.   This is what austerity means.  The Tories are going round murdering people.   Now is the time for the workers revolution!  This all comes from the middle class champagne socialists who somehow think that their Marxist paradise can be ushered in on the burned out bodies of the victims they never knew.  For cynical exploitation its hard to beat.


Brendan O’Neill again has a superb article on this.  Its worth reading the whole thing but here is for me the most perceptive part –

This compulsion to blame is a central feature of 21st-century life. Every accident or awful thing that happens is followed by now almost instant demands for heads to roll. We seem incapable of accepting that sometimes horrendous experiences cannot easily be blamed on an individual or a group or a party. Like medieval communities who burnt witches when their crops failed – someone just had to be held morally responsible for the awful consequences of crop failure – today we point a collective or at least media finger at ‘uncaring’ individuals and institutions every time a tragedy occurs.

6.  Theresa May?

And that brings me on to the most disturbing part of all this – the demonisation and abuse of the Prime Minister Theresa May – you know that you are in trouble as a Tory PM when even some of the right-wing press join in the mob.  It’s a strange combination – the Socialist workers, the BBC, Momentum, the ‘Progressives’,  and the Tory press.  I suspect that it is a combination which will be too much for her – especially if the Tory Grandees – who are utterly ruthless, believe that she is too wounded.

There is a sickening hypocrisy here- amongst other things it’s an example of a deep-rooted highly selective mysogyny.  If you criticise Diane Abbott you must be a racist misogynist.  But Theresa May – she’s fair game.  She’s a witch.  She’s responsible for everything.  She’s cold and callous and robotic and unfeeling.  She’s not like a real woman.   Or that ever so nice Jeremy.

For me the worst aspect was the interview by Emily Maitlis for the BBC.  I heard of this in Australia through gleeful tweets from political opponents of May, who thought that it was a disaster for her.  So I thought I should watch this latest ‘car crash’ interview. Except it wasn’t.  I thought May came across quite well.  Maitlis on the other hand was quite appalling.

It completely disgusted me.  Maitlis is an experienced journalist so her conduct astonished me.   It was hectoring, bullying and exploitative.   She must have known what she was doing – seeking to build her career by taking down May, but it was one of the most exploitative and shameful pieces of journalism I have ever seen.

“There is a need for the public to hear you say in words of one syllable something terrible has happened, something has gone badly wrong, it it our fault, we acknowledge that and accept responsibility. What about it?…..do you accept you misjudged the public mood?….you misread the publics anger about this.  They shouted ‘coward’ at you this afternoon…there was no-one in charge, no one willing to accept responsibility…”.  

I hope you don’t have to be told what is wrong with absurd logic but let me list just some of the things.

a) The public are dumb – they need to be treated like children and we need to be spoken to in ‘words of one syllable’!  Seriously?   Maitlis was asking for  – “Fire bad.  Me sad.  So wrong.”? This is apparently how BBC journalists perceive us – as idiots…who need to be spoon fed soundbites.

b). The public need a sacrifice.  Someone has to admit it was their fault.  According to Ms Maitlis it was not the Tower management block, nor the council, nor the mayor, nor the local MP who actually sat on the safety committee for that Tower; no – it must be the Prime Minister – who actually had no direct responsibility for the building.  I have just been reading Hilary Mantel’s wonderful novel on the French Revolution – A Place of Greater Safety – in which she chillingly portrays the effect of mob rule.  Those who stir up ‘the people’ and speak in the name of ‘the people’ need to beware.  The media and the politicians are creating an atmosphere in which one sacrifice may not be enough.  Once the mob taste blood….

3. Some within the BBC apparently think that their role is  to be mob cheer leaders – not to provide news or impartial analysis.  Anyone with a scintilla of common sense could have worked out that May was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.  If she had gone to the scene and sought to meet with residents in public – there would have been those (some genuine, and some just political ‘all Tories are evil scum’ types) who would have yelled at her and abused her.  The news would then have been full of headlines –  ‘May attacked by angry residents’, ‘May faces anger of the bereaved’ ‘Heartless May condemned for deaths’.   If she decided not to be part of that charade then she gets condemned for being unfeeling (unlike Jeremy who had some nice photos taken).

The BBC again had a disgusting soundbite of a young man going on about how the PM was ‘as cold as ice’ because she went to her car, rather than be yelled at by him.  He never met her and he of course therefore has no way of knowing that – but in the interview, which the BBC highlighted on their website, he got his one minute of fame and his soundbites.  “Where is the home secretary?”  he yelled.  I suspect he would not know either the name or the face of Home Secretary.   Again – why not the mayor? Why not the local MP?  I suspect the young man had been well briefed – there was no indication he had anything to do with Grenfell tower – but who cares – it suits the narrative of ‘heartless May’.  The irony is that such ‘journalism’ is itself heartless and cruel.

In fact if we are going to play the blame game – why not blame the BBC and Ms Maitlis? It makes as much sense to blame the ‘conscience of the nation’ as it does the Prime Minister. Maitlis was after all the deputy producer for Newsnight.  Why did they not do a programme on the dangers facing people in Grenfell Tower block?  Where were the cutting edge news stories about the housing conditions of the poor? Surely if they had done their job and ran a piece beforehand they could have saved lifes?  How easy it is to be wise and self-righteous after the event!

This demonisation of May reminds me of the hysteria surrounding the Queen after the accident in which Diana died.  Again there was a collective mob hysteria, stirred up by and reflected in the press –  ‘Ma’am where are you?  Why are you not showing your feelings? Your people need you to cry!”.  Brendan O’Neill again nails it –

Do people want Theresa May to weep in public? Allow herself to be pelted with rotten fruit? Make herself available for cries of “murderer” even though it’s ridiculous for her to be accused of murder? What if it isn’t in her nature to show her feelings to strangers — should she still do it? For the good of the nation? I’m finding this climate of emotional retribution quite ugly, I must say. The public’s urgent questions and anger over Grenfell are being channelled by some into a narrow, cartoonish anti-Toryism designed to hurt May and help Labour. To refight the General Election on the ruins of this building strikes me as a far more callous thing than May’s inability to emote for the cameras.

But this has gone even further than the hysteria surrounding the Queen.

DCofFxaXcAEgAn8This is the kind of tweet that has been going the rounds.  Notice the Star of David on her ankle and ears.  The mockery of mental illness. This is the nastiness and viciousness of those who campaign against the Tories as ‘the nasty party’.  What level of depraved mind uses the burned bodies of the poor in order to promote anti-Semitism (or whatever other cause is your thing)?  Why Anti-Semitism Matters in the British Election

A Christian Perspective

Sadly there are those Christians who have joined in with the mob.  They should be ashamed.  It is not Christ-like behaviour.  Christ was crucified by a mob – he never incited one.  Paul and the disciples were often set upon by mobs – they never stirred up the irrationality and hatred that are characteristic of such mobs.

There is a Christian perspective on this.  We share the passion and concern of God for the poor. We seek justice (do those bearing the placards shouting for justice have any idea of what that means?).  We know that God  is even concerned about building regulations – Deut. 22:8    When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.  If there are those who through shoddy workmanship cheap skate building are found guilty of cutting corners in order to save money, then they do need to dealt with by the courts of the land.

Jesus was once asked about a massacre of Galileans by Pilate and he talked about them and also about a tower incident. “Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish”.   Jesus was teaching a very hard truth – that in fact everything is destined to perish.  We are all dying.  And all our great institutions and the things we boast about as though they will last forever.  They won’t.

I am just preparing another column on Revelation and we have come to Revelation 18.  It is somehow appropriate.  The great city, Babylon (ie Rome), is full of luxury, drunkenness, promiscuity – they think they are the rulers of the world and they will last forever.  Revelation 18 talks about the ‘smoke of her burning’.    The bible is not being pessimistic – it is being realistic.  Empires rise, empires fall;  cities are founded, cities are destroyed; towers are built, towers burn, people are born, people die; – we all need to be prepared for the inevitable.  This is not saying that if the people in Grenfell Tower were all Christians (doubtless some of them were) then it would not have burnt down.  It is saying that all of us need to be prepared to meet our Maker.  Rather than play the blame game – where it is all someone else’s fault – we need to admit our own guilt, not just in the temporal things which will doubtless come up in the inquiry into this tragedy, but in the eternal aspects.  Are we prepared for the day of Judgement?

Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.

Do not forget the helpless.

13 Why does the wicked man revile God?

Why does he say to himself,

“He won’t call me to account”?

14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;

you consider their grief and take it in hand.

The victims commit themselves to you;

you are the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked man;

call the evildoer to account for his wickedness

that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;

the nations will perish from his land.

17 You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted;

you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

18 defending the fatherlessa and the oppressed,b

so that mere earthly mortals

will never again strike terror.

Psalm 10.

Another excellent article is this from Peter Hitchins

And this was sent to me just after I had written this –   The Demonising of Mrs May


  1. Mmm.

    a) The public are dumb – £350m for the NHS…….if the public are not dumb why did that play so well in the campaign?
    b) The public need a sacrifice – of course they do. Its now deep in our psyche that when bad things happen that could have been prevented that an offering is made to atone for the error. Of course, since we are all sinners and Christ was offered as the sacrifice to deal with that its clear thats what people look for again and again. The fire is horrific but we can all see in our minds eye how those people died. We want someone to blame for that. Unfair but totally not unexpected.
    c) Theresa May put in place policies and staff that argued I should move to Zimbabwe and leave my Dad, who has dementia, in Scotland on his own. They were told this and still said I should move to a country I have no link with. I have no sympathy for her at all. She shows no compassion or thought for the people who are affected by her actions so it cannot be a surprise that people have no consideration for her.

    It is reasonable though to blame the amorphous blob that is the state. We live by the rules of the state, we pay money to the state, we have politicians who make claims of being able to influence the states spending and/or decision making etc. It touches every part of our lives. It is there, to a great extent, to protect us I suppose. So when it fails this badly then its no surprise that that there is anger.

    And its legitimate for all sections of society to express their anger at this (not sure about your dismissal of Lily Allen to be honest, she has darkened the door of the shacks of refugees outside Calais). You complain about metropolitan liberal elites yet also complain that they are shocked, saddened and angered about this tragedy. Do the rich and famous not get to care? You care about people suffering in other places. Why are you the only one to get angry about others suffering.

    “The KCTMO has a board comprising eight residents (tenants or leaseholders), four council-appointed members, and three independent members. Do they not bear some responsibility?”

    Depends on the terms of reference or other rules of that body and I suspect that the Public Inquiry will tease that out. At what levels of an organisation should technical expertise and ability to test that expertise lie. If an engineer says something is safe, is it the role of a board to test that if they have tested the engineer’s qualifications at recruitment and that there has been no concern about performance as a staff member raised.

  2. David you write more sense than most of the media put together. Of course it is NOT MRS MAY’S FAULT. Whatever happened to considered reporting of the facts instead of whipping up hysteria. Indeed it does remind me of the summer of 1997 when HM got it in the neck. Get a grip Britain.

  3. Very good, David. Theodore Dalrymple nailed the ‘toxic cult of sentimentality’ some years ago. One observation he made that has stuck with me is that ‘brutality always follows sentimentality’. How right he was.

  4. David, on this I’m with you. Heck, that might be the second time in a lifetime 😂

  5. There is a growing ugliness about politics. Witness the hysteria in the USA from certain quarters. Okay, not everybody was over the moon about the victory of Mr Trump but until recently people accepted the result of an election, whoever won, and moved on. Now the Left, or large parts of it, are no longing willing to do that. The reaction now (same with Brexit) is to claim that the winners only won by underhand methods or because the ‘wrong’ kind of people (the old, the uneducated, etc) voted for the winner. The public were fed ‘fake news’ and were misled. Like Communists of old they claim to be the standard-bearers of ‘the people’ and therefore have a ‘right’ to bring down the government (or block Brexit). What, however, is strange is that much of this activity on the Left is financed by billionaires who have grown rich by benefitting from capitalism. I don’t know if that is the source of the money in this case but it is noticeable that the leftist mobs always have very professionally-produced placards to wave.

    1. Mike – you have hit on something very important in this – Soros and others are the multi-billionaires who lead the ‘progressive’ movement. The Left has lost its soul and is now the mob/voting fodder of the billionaires who benefit most from globalisation and removal of borders.

  6. I’ve not really collected my thoughts on this yet but initial, unordered, thoughts are

    1 What a hideous, mocking, staged fake image of Teresa May. What ostentatiously clever, vicious, self congratulatory, warped imagination put it together>. It seems more callous and calculated than a hastily knocked-up protest placard. What carbuncled, hard hearted is revealed here. It drips with icicles . The accuser stands accused and condemned. Additionally, as you say, what does it say about the understanding of mental health, of creator of the image. It is deeply offensive to all those who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, particularly those who may have been in a locked intensive care ward.
    The whole image shouts, IGNORANCE,. While it masquerades as dark cynical humour it is unadorned sophistry
    2 BBC This sort of so called journalism is commonplace in the BBC now. Is it part of their (re) training for people who are old enough, who ought to know better? Investigative journalism ,it is not. Leading questions, putting words into mouths to obtain answers and responses they are seeking is the norm, if not the (un)written rule. It is more like advocacy, unrestrained by evidential rules.
    Martha Kearney on radio 4 is another with her persistent whining, holier-than thou anguished questioning. I can’t remember her being like this always. She seems to have changed.
    3 So far I’ve not heard God being blamed. No one seems to have placed the fire into the legal system’s category of an “Act of God”
    4 The demand for instant answers is nonsensical lynch mob mentality. What happened to all those artistic poetry loving anarchists, or culturally sensitive souls? Have they forgotten the Nation’s best loved poem, Kipling’s If
    “IF you can keep your head when all about you 
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: “

    5 Death. It’s too raw and too soon to speak philosophically at length but I’ve been dipping into Keller’s “Making Sense of God”
    Keller cites Peter Kreeft as arguing that the modern narrative that death is a stage, “something natural, inevitable and can’t be too bad” (Diana Athill) is to “suppress the natural human intuition that death is not natural at all”
    The Christian view is that death is evil, a monstrosity. The Grenfell Tower fire reveals that a lot of people agree that death is a monstrosity. When push comes to shove, they’d agree with Carl Jung:
    “Death is indeed a fearful piece of brutality: there is no sense in pretending otherwise. It is brutal not only as a physical event, but far more so physically: a human being is torn away from us and what remains is the icy stillness of death. There no longer exists any hope of a relationship, for all the bridges have been smashed at one blow”

    Most of us “rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Dylan Thomas ), most do not want to “go gentle” into the night of death.

    6 “Rage, rage against…” against what? Some Christian’s of prominence have counselled rage, to join the “Day of Rage”. Mark Woods Managing Editor of Christiantoday, and minister, is one. In his article on that site he misappropriates scripture as proof text out of context, (eg Jesus cleansing the Temple). Is he also counselling rage within the body of Christ , within the church for its apostasy?

    Civil rage is the start of anarchy, of revolution.

    Martin Luther King read the same bible as Woods.

  7. After thirty years of having it relentlessly drummed into us that there is no such thing as undeserved or unforeseeable or unavoidable misfortune, and being pursued by services that woo us “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” – now we are surprised to see it working out on the street?
    Agree the image is unacceptable – it’s depressing to contemplate how what Twitter now reveals about us humans that was merely decently hidden for so long.

    1. I really don’t see that Grenfell Tower can be “undeserved or unforeseeable or unavoidable misfortune”. Tower blocks were built to keep fires in one unit, and generally speaking, have done. If this has been compromised on the inside of the building or the outside or both, then there surely must have been serious negligence on someone’s part!

      1. Peter, I absolutely agree – this cannot be swept under the carpet as an “Act of God”, like disasters in an earlier, more brutal age.

        (This one, for instance: where the business owner not only was exempted from responsibility, but also got a tax rebate for the lost product. Could you imagine the headlines now?

        But the opposite “find a scapegoat” mentality our host is complaining about did not come out yesterday from nowhere, nor is it restricted to Mrs May. I personally had to block a stranger on Twitter who insisted on informing me that the occupant of the flat where the fire began was (a) an Ethiopian refugee and (b) curiously had his bags packed and family elsewhere in advance of the outbreak. Given the choice between a mysterious and probably fictional “dark stranger”, and a Government that has openly and proudly dismantled, outsourced or made “self-certifying” many important building protections, not to mention a Council that apparently paid rebates to its taxpayers out of the moneys “prudently” so managed, I think there will be plenty of meat for an inquiry without taking the name of Our Lord in vain.

        Whoever was at fault, there are hundreds of people involved who by no stretch could be thought to deserve their fate, unless by those who insist they “shouldn’t be here” or “shouldn’t need handouts”. And a further “elephant in the room”, almost entirely ignored on all sides: a number of private tenants of privately-owned units (legacy of “right to buy”) actually paying for the privilege of living in a death trap.

        In the mean time there is plenty to do identifying other buildings at risk and acting accordingly.

  8. It all illustrates — both in its uses and abuses — that we are made in the image of God.
    1. Creativity: consider the skill needed to construct a well-founded, stable building ~20 stories high, then compare that with the ingenuity (and wilfull ignorance) required to get round the building regulations designed to keep it safe.
    2. Spirituality: shared rage and compassion sweeping back and forth like tides.
    3. Rationality: having plans for what to do should a disaster occur but assuming that those caught up in a disaster will behave with an identical rationality to that provisionally mapped out for them by those who don’t share their mental map.
    4. Morality: The self-righteousness of broadcast journalists knows no bounds. When we choose to allow what was once forbidden we must begin to see those who maintain the standards and boundaries of the old righteousness as being in fact wrong and to call them out for their immorality.
    5. Impartiality: We allocate the limited amount of social housing to those who are in the most need, then, aware that those who make the most noise are the ones who get things done, we show our continuing impartiality by not listening to complaints.
    6. Authority: It seems to me that the PM has lost the authority to do what she wants to do while retaining the authority to do what she needs to do.
    7. Dignity: The PM’s pledge of humility and resolve strikes exactly the right note. It is a striking fact that the offending cladding was placed on the outside of Grenfell Tower for the benefit of those who had to look at it rather than for the benefit of those who had to live in it.


    1. John,

      Much wise thinking in your post. But I wouldn’t lean so hard on journalists, when they are simply representing us in asking questions many would like to ask, and rather too many not like to answer. I see the pernicious idea they should be subservient cheerleaders instead has got an airing again: pray we never find ourselves in the sort of State where that is everyday reality.

      No 1 particularly resonated with me: the legal “arms race” between ever more complex regulation and ingenious circumvention never stops, any more than the actual weapons version. Any Pharisee could easily recognise the game.

      As to No.7 – it is noticeable how many luxury blocks along the Thames, while enjoying their peerless views, are absolute eyesores for everybody else. But their owners are under no obligation to mitigate the offence. I wonder how many of them are starting to wonder what corners were quietly cut in *their* high-rise apartments and not spotted by hard-pressed building inspectors?

      I only hope No.6 is not wrong – if the PM cannot do what needs to be done, she should move on and support someone else who can. (No view is here intended of who that should be – none of the known contenders at present look promising!)

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  9. Building regulations are important. They are a function of Government. They need to be kept up-to-date with technology and in the light of incidents. This applies to governments right and left. A reasonable doubt has been raised about whether the use of cladding has been appropriately regulated, especially in light of a coroner’s findings.
    The Bible is clear that governments must rule justly, and it is clear that it’s teaching are as relevant as ever.

  10. Thanks for your article.
    I wasn’t sure about the accuracy of your comment about working class voters voting consistently Conservative since 1979: “the Tories got a far higher percentage of the working class vote since 1979, and Labour got a far higher middle class vote”. Could you please provide evidence here?

    I came across this which gives opposing evidence: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/how-britain-voted-october-1974?language_content_entity=en-uk There are two elections in which working class voters had a higher percentage for Cons than Lab, four in which Lab had more votes and one in which there is a tie.

    1. Hi Simeon….I think there is a misunderstanding here caused by my not expressing myself clearly enough. I was simply repeating what was said on the BBC – that the Tories got a higher percentage of the working class vote in this past election than they have in any other election since 1979…

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