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 Images
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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.