The obvious target for blame is David Cameron with his pathetic approach of slagging off the EU for five and a half years in order to placate the far right of his party and then trying to explain in 6 months how damaging it would be to leave. But if we want to look a bit further then personally I might be tempted to start the blame game with Angela Merkel. She did two things that tipped the vote in the UK. One was actually a very decent and sensible thing to do and very much in the long term interests of Germany and the rest of Europe. She chose not to shut out the Syrian refugees but to welcome them. That made huge inroads into Germany's massive demographic time bomb and was therefore a very wise long term investment in her country's future. It was also the right moral choice. Unfortunately it resulted in paranoia being whipped up in the UK as Brexiteers convinced large numbers of normally sensible people that we were about to be swamped by an invasion of terrorists rather than prevent little children's bodies from being washed up on the shore. I cannot remotely blame Merkel for that.
But it is right and proper to blame Merkel for the economic stagnation and the youth unemployment across Europe that mainly resulted from her narrow minded insistence on austerity politics. Does anyone seriously think the UK could have been talked so easily into leaving the EU if Europe was doing well economically? The best argument for Leave campaigners was 40% youth unemployment in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Merkel chose to respond to an economic downturn not by launching a major investment programme in public works but by forcing countries that were going through a deep recession to accept a full scale depression. Austerity wasn't an economic necessity. It was a political choice. Before the bankers messed up Greece had debts that were perfectly possible to handle. After Merkel insisted on contracting their economy they were impossible to do so. Anyone looking at the way Germany was using EU institutions to bully sovereign countries into poverty could hardly be blamed for thinking the UK would be better off well away for that kind of external control.
The next contender for the blame game has to be Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party more widely. You cannot oppose the dangerous lurch to the right that Brexit has created by saying ...... well that's precisely the problem. Exactly what did Labour say? Where was the clear steer to its voters that this was a disaster for workers' rights, that it put jobs at risk for a fantasy of Empire 2.0, and that the EU had done fantastic work in preventing European war? Where was any mention of the environmental challenge we collectively face and the need for coherent Europe wide action? Where was the simple explanation of the value of the single market and the argument that Germany was already trading very nicely with the rest of the world in manufacturing so our failure to do so equally successfully was nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with failure to invest enough in the next phases of technology?
Individuals from Labour did say such things. The leadership utterly failed to do so sufficiently clearly. It never placed itself at the head of progressive forces and made sure the message got across. Instead it dithered and sounded like it wasn't entirely sure whether a 'left' wing exit might be a good thing. No such exit was on offer as we can now see all too clearly. Why couldn't the Labour party have seen that in advance? Once the referendum vote happened why did it dither so badly over insisting the terms of the deal came back to Parliament? Why is it still struggling to demand clarity about what May intends to do next? Labour is facing the most amazing opportunity any opposition party ever had. All it needs to do is to ask often and loudly for details on what UK policy is going to be on almost any issue you care to name post Brexit. The answers are almost certain to be ones that the public doesn't like the sound of. The answers are highly likely to split the Conservatives down the middle. No answer is going to sound increasingly like evasion.
Does even the strongest Labour supporter think that this opportunity has been seized and used well so far? Promises are now being made that the proper fight-back is about to begin. Too little, too late, too unconvincing. Labour has failed us and as someone who wanted Corbyn to succeed I have to say that I think he carries a substantial chunk of the blame for this.
My third candidates for blame are the Liberal Democrats. This probably sounds deeply bizarre and unfair as they are currently running a very good campaign against Brexit that I wholeheartedly support. They deserve to do well for offering an option for the 48% of voters who wanted to remain in the EU. Unfortunately it was the Lib Dems' choices in the run up to the referendum that got us into this mess in the first place. As a mathematical fact the reason we have a Conservative government that led us into Brexit is not that Labour lost votes in the last election - it didn't, it increased its share. The reason we have a Conservative government is that the Lib Dem vote utterly collapsed. The Conservatives won their majority by taking seats from the Lib Dems not by taking them from Labour. That happened because people wanted to punish the Lib Dems for the quickest betrayal of a firm commitment that any party has made in my lifetime. Voters refused to turn out for a party that promised to cut tuition fees and then increased them from £3,000 to £9,000. It is possible that voters are now prepared to forgive and forget and the Lib Dems might do very well in Remain constituencies down south at the next election. It is possible that this will win them a lot of seats next time round and deny May her majority. Unfortunately it is likely that even if that happens it will be too late in the day to save us from the consequences of their betrayal in 2010.
Yet my real candidate for blame isn't any political party or political leader. It is all of us in the Remain camp. The campaign we ran was pathetic. It consisted mainly of wild threats being issued by establishment figures that people didn't trust. Not enough ordinary Remain folk spoke up before the vote to enough people who disagreed with us. Many grandparents proudly went and voted for Brexit to protect their offspring and then were shocked to discover their grandchildren were really cross with their elderly relatives for messing up their future. The generations didn't talk enough about it before the event. Worse still, many of us have spent hours sending each other twitter messages or even going on demonstrations without bothering to do enough of the hard work of arguing it out with those who disagree with us.
You cannot change the country's opinion if you only talk to those who already agree with you. I would like to see us Remainers getting a lot better at asking simple difficult questions and refusing to accept the naive answers we are being offered. I think there is a big opportunity to change public opinion. We need to demand again and again to hear the reality of what is being proposed and ask people whether the answers are remotely realistic and whether this was really what people expected if they voted leave.
There are of course plenty of wild swivel eyed people out there who have got themselves convinced that Brexit really is the answer to all our problems. There are a lot more people who voted Brexit because they preferred wild unsubstantiated hopes to wild unsubstantiated threats. On balance, reluctantly, knowing that they had inadequate information the majority of people put their cross against leave in the hope that it would all turn out OK.
We have less than two years to persuade that group of people that what they are being offered is nothing remotely like what they were promised and that they must be offered the chance to vote on the real deal not the promises and threats. Either in a General Election before we leave or in a second referendum on the facts not the wild assertions.
If we Remainers can contribute anything to achieving that then it may not be too late to avoid taking our own share of the blame.