AT time of writing, in excess of one and a half million people have signed an online petition to “remake Game Of Thrones Season eight with competent writers”. HBO showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss have been taking brickbats from the Thrones fandom all week for how the eighth and final season of the show concluded.

YouTube is replete with incandescent vloggers, howling into the void about the show’s “unearned” endings, abuse of “foreshadowing” and tantrums about beloved characters ending the season eating dirt. Flamewars, take-downs, tantrums – for the emotionally detached, the scale of the derangement a work of fiction can generate is bleakly entertaining. But what’s really to blame for the bumpy reception this aftermath of dead dragons, regime change, smouldering cities and collapsing masonry has received?

Among all the hot takes, I was most taken by Zeynep Tufekci’s. Writing in the Scientific American this week, Tufekci argues that the discontent has been driven by a deeper shift in the show’s sensibility in its final two series, having exhausted George RR Martin’s source material. The great merit of the first few series of Game Of Thrones, she argues, was its distinctive “sociological and institutional storytelling in a medium dominated by the psychological and the individual”.

Sure, the show’s characters had their psyches and emotions. But its characters evolved “in response to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them” rather than being governed exclusively by the personal psychodramas playing out inside their heads. The 19th-century Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle argued “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. To understand how human affairs unfold, he suggested, we need only follow the tracks of the individual genius, the hero, the world’s central magnetic character. Their wake is history.

In the final season of the show, Tufekci suggests, the Thrones writers steered “the narrative lane away from the sociological and shifted to the psychological” – on to Carlyle’s terrain. Why should this matter? “This is an important shift to dissect because whether we tell our stories primarily from a sociological or psychological point of view has great consequences for how we deal with our world and the problems we encounter,” she writes. Tufekci’s right. Instead of subscribing to Carlyle’s great man theory of history, early Thrones chopped the great man’s head off. Season eight shrunk.

Consciously or not, in storytelling terms, we’re often Carlyle’s children, inclined to understand and explain the world’s shifts and changes in terms of villains and conquerors, saints and champions. It strikes me there are wider lessons here about the stories we tell ourselves about the current crises in British politics, how we found ourselves here, and what we might do to get out of it.

Like Hollywood producers, the British press are addicted to individual, psychological stories about villains, heroes, redeemers, prophets and kings. And just as we were beginning to come down to brass tacks on Brexit, confronting detail, ordering preferences, forced to address reality by a rapidly contracting timetable before the United Kingdom automatically crashes out of the EU, the end of Theresa May’s administration has greenlit a return to the destructive, distracting navel-gazing which suggests that the present crisis is just a crisis of leadership and personality, rather than one which viscerally expresses incorrigible underlying tensions in modern Britain.

The set-piece media episodes do everything to reinforce this outlook on the world, from Theresa May’s final self-deceiving soliloquy in Downing Street about the shadows of ghosts of achievements which only she can perceive, to the upcoming Tory leadership election, which already reads like a fan-fiction mash-up of The Hunger Games and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Dopey dreams of sweet dominion.

Whether you perceive the world through an individual and psychological lens – or a social and political one – has profound implications for how you understand the world changing around you, and where you locate praise and blame. Consider the questions: “Did Boris Johnson’s personal appeal deliver Brexit?” or “Did decades of sustained escalation of anxieties about immigration, colluded in by both Conservative and Labour parties, mainstreamed and popularised across the media, repeated by a range of social actors, deliver Brexit?”

The National: Can Boris Johnson really claim any credit for the Brexit result?Can Boris Johnson really claim any credit for the Brexit result?

In how we talk about politics, we hear a lot of the first kind of question, and rather less of the latter. We’re looking for explanations in the wrong places. My sense is that Johnson just happens to have been the great chump who happened to be on the spot when the wider social factors found an opportunity in 2016 to play out in a politically decisive way. And if, by a twist of history, the woolly lummox had never existed, in his place we’d find some other great chump, who’d also fondly imagine himself to be a work of world-historical significance.

THE problems of Brexit are not problems of personality. Repeat after me. The problems of Brexit are not problems of personality. Chant it. Hold on to the thought. Because in the days and weeks to come, on the airwaves and on television, in debates and columns and news reports, you can rely on almost everyone around you to forget that the factors which tested Theresa May to destruction were not rooted in the brittle inflexibility of her own rather leaden personality.

The ambivalences and compromises in the deal she was able to strike with Brussels has nothing to do with whether her tear-ducts are well-oiled and fully operational. The reason Theresa May couldn’t drag that deal across the parliamentary line has nothing to do with whether or not this starched, desperately conventional Tory lady is easily emotionally expressive.

Yes, she was a cold fish. Yes, she was thrawn, obdurate, charmless. Reactionary on immigration, she was glacially indifferent to the human consequences of her policies, with few other animating passions for how this country should be governed. Like a broken umbrella, uneasy, jagged and defensive, Theresa May winced her way through high office. But the fundamental contradictions which sent this raw metal prime minister to the scrapyard aren’t the contradictions of the human heart, or the timorousness or sclerosis of her intellect or soul.

They’re the social and political contradictions at the heart of the Brexit endeavour, which entered negotiations without a plan, without priorities, with no apparent sense of what trade-offs must be made, breezily confident an exit accord entirely to Britain’s benefit would be “one of the easiest deals in human history”.

British politics is facing a paralysis of indecision because of the deep incoherence of its demands, preferences, priorities and red lines. A brighter personality in Downing Street won’t scuff out those red lines – May’s replacement can only become entangled in them in a different way. Incompatible preferences about how the UK should leave the EU won’t fall neatly into a rational order simply because a grey pow in Number 10 has been replaced by a sunburst-yellow one.

A different personality at the head of the Tory Party will not eliminate these problems or unsnarl those contradictions. The fact that this observation seems heretical tells you everything you need to know about the self-indulgence and escapism British politics is now reduced to. Unable to look this difficult reality full in the face, unable to grapple with the restless social and political realities of Brexit, the Conservative Party are leading this country into a summer vaudeville, a sideshow, and show every sign of appreciating the distraction.