Ed(ward) Miliband calls for a public enquiry at any given opportunity, so much so it has become a joke. But is there not something more sinister going on?
Chief Scout Ed(ward) Miliband is a politician of so little substance that even at an anatomical level, he is barely held together. He must be surprised to see himself in the mirror each morning, since he is so forgettable he is barely corporeal. His policies are no less Lethean and his slogan of ‘One Nation’ (which cannot even be credited as an original) can surely only have been devised on he basis that its brevity makes it memorable enough for Labour’s intellectually inanimate leader to remember. He’s described as ‘courageous’ in the same way one might describe a village idiot as a ‘colourful member of the community’. Despite being a punch-line in himself, one ongoing joke concerns the fact that Mr Miliband calls for public inquiries on a range of subjects almost weekly. Thus far, he has requested investigations into:
- The murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane
- Jimmy Savile
- The West Coast Mainline franchise debacle
- GCSE English papers
- The banks
- PIP breast implants
- London Riots
- Care home abuse
- The Press 
His bandwagons are so many that he could set up his own ‘used’ bandwagon dealership, since the very quantity of his requested inquiries has devalued the product. And like any charlatan, Mr Miliband can afford to be insincere in the wares he peddles – he might be the butt of jokes for his repeated calls, but to those who only think about politics come election time, he looks like he is responding to public concerns in an earnest fashion. He can be seen to be standing up for public interests against vested ones in order to position the coalition as being on Goliath’s side. This is one of the virtues of opposition, since real responsibilities and the affairs of state are just toys in the waiting room.
And whilst he plays make-believe in opposition, Mr Miliband sees the taxpayer’s funding as monopoly money for his disingenuous demands – how very Labour of him. Public inquiries never fail to run into the millions. The Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday lasted twelve years and cost the taxpayer £195m ; the Leveson Inquiry is estimated to have cost at least £5.6m and climbing; the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry cost £12,959,390 ; the total cost of the Iraq War Inquiry since 2009 has cost £6,130,600 ; the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) Inquiry cost an estimated £14 million, the BSE Inquiry around £27 million.
Now this is not to say that some of these inquiries are not important, but sheer cost is likely to skew the perception of an inquiry’s worth, especially in austere times. Tor Butler-Cole (who won the 2004 Woolf Scholarship for an essay examining ethical applications of public inquiries) succinctly concludes that ‘the duration and cost of public inquiries are arguments for limiting their use, but not for abandoning them altogether.’  As a Labour politician, Mr Miliband is unlikely to be able to accept the absence of money as a means of denying his own political fortunes.
And it is here that the cynical, if not outright sinister aspect of Mr Miliband’s inquiry-mania seem to reveal itself. Alluding to the moral philosopher Onora O’Neill, Ms Butler-Cole writes of how ‘a “culture of suspicion” [..] has gripped Britain, creating a nation devoted to league tables and performance indicators, and obsessed with blame and compensation. The ubiquitous demands for public inquiries might be thought an illustration of this problem.’  Such disintegration occurred under Labour with alacrity. They created a cosmetically ‘free’ and ‘equal’ society, whilst all the while ceding power to the EU and decimating hundreds of years of hard won legal and civil liberties in a state power grab. In the same way, public inquiries give the appearance of transparency and reform to parties like Labour, whilst deflecting attention away from their appalling political, ethical, moral, social and intellectual record.
In effect Mr Miliband is proposing modern day variants of the show-trial. The truth that such inquiries may reveal is not as important as the political capital he and his clutch of metropolitan champagne socialist trendies hope to reap from the false sincerity that hides behind the phrases they employ, like ‘in the public interest’. Thanks to electioneering of this sort, public inquiries have begun to resemble an amalgamation of TV talent contests and reality TV shows, where the process of humiliation, implied slights and innuendo takes precedence over whatever the inquiries conclusions may be.
It would be incorrect to suggest that the principle of public inquiries is wrong, but the clamour for them often seems to outweigh the necessity. Of course this is not as exciting nor as lucrative for the ambitious Mr Miliband. Peter Hitchens has it exact when he remarks that ‘liberal bigotry is the worst of all because it thinks it is so enlightened.’ He could not have described Mr Miliband with greater precision. Mr Miliband’s ongoing calls for public inquiries are the stuff of self-aggrandisement; they are damaging because they do not appear discerning, and they are discredited because they are disconcertingly political.
© thepanopticonblog, 2012
- 1. George Eaton. ‘How many independent inquiries has Labour called for?’ New Statesman. 16 October 2012.
- 2. Lord Saville’s salary was £2million and 14 other lawyers made more than £1million each from the investigation. They were: Sir Christopher Clarke £4,488,266; Edwin Glasgow QC, forces’ lead counsel, £4,065,817; Alan Roxburgh, inquiry counsel, £2,978,989; Cathryn McGahey, inquiry counsel, £2,268,093; Bilal Rawat, inquiry counsel, £2,203,633; Gerard Elias QC, for soldiers, £1,795,752; Allan Green QC, for soldiers, £1,522,441; Eilish McDermott, families’ counsel, £1,405,133; Arthur Harvey, families’ counsel, £1,326,426; David Bradly, soldiers’ counsel, £1,291,966; Barry J McDonald, families’ counsel, £1,203,275; Nicholas Griffin, Army counsel, £1,195,062; David Lloyd Jones QC, £1,095,966; Seamus Treacy £1,008,703. (Source: The Mirror)
- 3. ‘Inquiry Costs’ Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.
- 4. See ‘Iraq Inquiry costs for the financial year 2011 to 2012’. The Iraq Inquiry.
- 5. Tor Butler-Cole. ‘Public inquiries: a waste of time and money or a useful adjunct to the legal process?’ The Telegraph. 22 April 2004.
- 6. Ibid.
More from The Panopticon: