Miliband's call for a judge-led inquiry gathers strength

MPs' failure to land a blow on Bob Diamond has bolstered the case for a full inquiry.

It was Lib Dem MP John Thurso's comparison of Bob Diamond with Geoffrey Boycott ("You have been occupying the crease for two and a half hours and I am not sure we are any further forward") that was the defining moment of yesterday's select committee hearing. Put simply, the bowlers weren't up to the job. Their ineptitude exemplified precisely why we need a judge-led inquiry into the Libor scandal.

The Commons will vote today on whether to hold a parliamentary inquiry (the government's preferred option) or a judicial inquiry (Labour's preferred option), with the coalition's sizeable majority almost certain to ensure that MPs back the former. Andrew Tyrie, the chair of the Treasury select committee, has indicated that he will refuse to preside over an inquiry that does not enjoy cross-party support, but today's Financial Times reports that George Osborne, on this occasion, has prepared a plan B. Should Tyrie refuse to chair the inquiry, John McFall, the former Labour chair of the committee, will be asked to lead it instead. McFall will only accept the post with Miliband's blessing, but the offer of a Labour chair will make it harder for Miliband to withhold his support.

Yet George Osborne's evidence-free assertion that Labour ministers were "clearly involved" in the rate-rigging scandal means that consensus could prove elusive. It's worth noting that Miliband isn't the only one banging the drum for a judicial inquiry. The Daily Mail, one of the few papers with the capacity to shift government policy, reaffirms the case for "a proper judge-led public inquiry" in its editorial column today. Indeed, the paper seconds Miliband's proposal of a swift inquiry into the Libor scandal (to report by Christmas), followed by a second year-long inquiry into the wider "culture and practices" of the City of London.

As I suggested yesterday, the unending argument over which party called for the least regulation, matters less than who is seen to have the right policy now. One of Cameron's biggest problems is that he leads a party that voters see as far too close to the banks (a party "bankrolled by the banks", in Miliband's words) and other vested interests. It is one that his opposition to a judge-led inquiry (backed by 75 per cent of voters, according to YouGov) will only increase.

Former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond leaves Portcullis House after appearing before the Treasury Select Committee. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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