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16 August 2011

Cameron bows to Miliband and agrees to a riots inquiry

As in the case of phone-hacking, the Labour leader is calling the shots.

By George Eaton

Ed Miliband is having a good crisis. He was initially derided for linking the riots to the banking crisis, the expenses scandal and the phone hacking scandal but David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have both since echoed his analysis. Now, Cameron has bowed to the Labour leader’s demand for a commission of inquiry to look into the causes of the riots and looting.

Miliband has been the most prominent political figure calling for an inquiry since the events of last week. In his speech yesterday at Haverstock School, he argued:

After every major disturbance, from Brixton to Oldham, we have had a commission to look at the causes. We must have one this time. A genuine national conversation.

Not a group of MPs, simply focussed on policing and criminal justice. Not a review of government policy, conducted by civil servants in Whitehall. Not a standard judicial inquiry, made up of elites, such as we have with hacking. We need an answer which comes from the people themselves, that listens to the victims, that builds on their own experiences. If the Prime Minister wants to know the solutions, he should come to these communities and have the humility to listen. You should have nothing to fear from the truth.

A No. 10 source has now told the Guardian: “We are coming to the view that there is a case for community engagement about what happened and why. It would involve getting someone to go into the communities and find out why this all happened. It would be likely that it would be chaired by someone outside government. We’re coming to the view that some sort of engagement exercise would be useful.”

As in the case of phone hacking, when Miliband successfully called for the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, the establishment of a public inquiry, and the abandonment of the BSkyB deal, the Labour leader is calling the shots. It was his pledge to set up his own public inquiry that likely prompted Downing Street to act.

Nick Clegg is reportedly close to “brokering” a deal between the Tories and Labour on the precise terms of the commission. But while the Lib Dem leader will try to claim some of the credit, there is little doubt that this victory belongs to Miliband.