Still, this is new, even by the low standards of British tabloids. Why is it happening now? My best explanation is that the British, having unmoored themselves from Europe, are experiencing an unfamiliar sense of powerlessness. The campaign to leave the European Union told them they would “take back control.” Instead, negotiations with the E.U. have forced a humiliating series of concessions. Although the deadline is only a year away, the most important questions are still unresolved, because the ruling Conservative Party is too badly divided to resolve them. Hard choices on trade deals and the status of Northern Ireland have not been made because they will make too many people angry. The Labour Party, meanwhile, maintains strategic ambiguity and says very little.
As centrists and pragmatists retreat, wounded, from political life, new fantasies and fantasists blossom in the vacuum. Surely it can’t be the case that a directionless Britain is floundering; surely someone else must be to blame for all of this chaos and ill will. Some seek scapegoats, others uncover conspiracies. Maybe it’s unsurprising, then, that the oldest scapegoats and the most familiar tropes are among them.