How many independent inquiries has Labour called for?

Why Miliband's call for an inquiry into the Jimmy Savile affair felt so familiar.

Just as he argued that Rebekah Brooks could not lead an inquiry into herself, so Ed Miliband has declared that the BBC cannot investigate itself over the Jimmy Savile affair. He told ITV News last night:

To do right by the victims, I don't think the BBC can lead their own inquiry... I think we need a broader look at these public institutions - the BBC, I'm afraid some parts of the NHS, potentially, Broadmoor.

I'm open-minded about how it's done but it's got to be independent ... I'm a great supporter of the BBC but I don't think you can have the BBC board sort of leading its own inquiry.

Labour's default response to scandal is, increasingly, to demand an independent inquiry, so I've compiled a list of some of its most recent calls. Whether or not the below reflects an unusual preponderance of scandals or a lack of imagination on Labour's part, I'll let you decide.

West Coast Mainline

It is vital that we get to the bottom of the role of Ministers and who knew what when. It is scandalous that the review of what has been a huge failure of government is to be conducted by a senior figure from within the Department for Transport. We need a truly independent inquiry led by a figure unconnected to the DfT examining the role of officials from top to bottom, including ministers. There must be no scapegoating.

Maria Eagle, 5 October 2012

GCSE English papers

Whilst the Education Secretary Michael Gove says he is ‘saddened’ by the injustice that has been served to thousands of pupils, he is showing how out-of-touch he is with pupil opinion by refusing to take action. Labour supports calls for an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of this mess.

Stephen Twigg, 7 September 2012

The banks

We've got to have an open, independent inquiry with hearings to find out what is going on in the dark corners of the banks.

Ed Miliband, 30 June 2012

PIP breast implants

These women have had their lives turned upside down by this scandal but have rallied together to, in my view, articulate a convincing case for a public inquiry to take place in Scotland.

Jackie Baillie, 14 June 2012

Cash-for-access

With new allegations of cash for access emerging on a daily basis it is vital that David Cameron comes clean about the full scale and nature of his many meetings with wealthy donors. He needs to establish an independent inquiry immediately so people can have confidence that this matter will be resolved.

Jon Trickett, 1 April 2012

The riots

That is why I do say again to the Prime Minister: You must now agree to this commission of inquiry, you must agree to the national conversation that we need. Only by doing that can we properly serve the victims of what happened.

Ed Miliband, 13 August 2011

Care home abuse

There must be an independent investigation into what happened and what lessons need to be learned and the government should announce it straight away.

Ed Miliband, 7 June 2011

The press (successful)

It is not about government imposing this on the press, but I think the review needs to have some independence, both from government and from those involved in the day-to-day running of newspapers.

Ed Miliband, 19 April 2011

Labour leader Ed Miliband with deputy leader Harriet Harman at the party's conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.