Riots: Miliband blames 'me first' culture


Labour Leader, Ed Miliband called for a "national conversation" over the riots

Ed Miliband has blamed the riots that swept English cities on a "me first" culture - and accepted Labour must share the blame for creating it.

The Labour leader said his party had failed to tackle inequality and not paid enough attention to morality.

And he linked the riots to a wider collapse in social responsibility exemplified by the banking crisis and MPs expenses scandal.

He said he would set up his own riots inquiry if David Cameron failed to act.

'Sick society'

Mr Cameron has not ruled out holding a public inquiry - but has said he wants MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee to complete its investigation first.

The prime minister has also spoken of a collapse in personal responsibility and has claimed parts of Britain were not just "broken" but "sick".

Start Quote

We did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic”

End Quote Ed Miliband Labour leader

He told the BBC's North West Tonight crooked bankers and MPs deserved to be punished - but their behaviour should not be used as an excuse for lawlessness.

"We need responsibility right through our country - responsibility is the most important word in politics.

"But it cannot be used as an excuse - that was law breaking, that was looting, that was thieving.

"It's no good trying to blame that on someone else. All irresponsibility should be punished."

In a Commons statement on Thursday, the prime minister vowed to "restore a sense of stronger sense of morality and responsibility".

But he rejected Mr Miliband's call for a public inquiry, saying MPs were already listening to their communities - and the home affairs committee was holding an inquiry which should "do this work first".

Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the breakdown in social order that occurred this week showed many people had lost their sense of right and wrong and there was a "me first" culture.

"There is an issue which went to all our souls - this is an issue not just about the responsibility and irresponsibility we saw on the streets of Tottenham.

"It's about irresponsibility, wherever we find it in our society.

"We've seen in the past few years MPs' expenses, what happened in the banks, what happened with phone hacking."

'Usual suspects'

And he admitted that Labour had not done enough to tackle deep-rooted moral problems during its 13 years in power.

"I deeply regret that inequality wasn't reduced under the last Labour government. But we did great things to tackle inequality in our society," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic of our country."

He urged the prime minister set up a public inquiry in the next few days, adding: "We have got to avoid simplistic answers.

"There's a debate some people are starting: is it culture, is it poverty and lack of opportunity? It's probably both."

Mr Miliband said that if Mr Cameron does not agree to set up an inquiry "I'm going to do it myself".

Speaking to a group of young people in Brixton, south London, Mr Miliband said the inquiry should not just take evidence from the "usual suspects" but should also include people from communities affected by the rioting.

The Commons home affairs committee will begin its inquiry on 6 September, with London Mayor Boris Johnson set to be its first witness.

Committee chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said: "We will be looking at police tactics, we will be looking at the operation of gangs, we will be looking at mobile communications, and we will be revisiting some of the issues we have looked at in the past, such as the inquiry into the G20 protests.

"This will be a thoughtful and measured inquiry."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    You cannot run a decent society on a crude monetarist economics alone. People matter far more than 'market forces' and this society has given itself over to unfettered greed at the expense of the majority. Time to raise the taxes on the wealthy graspers and to provide real jobs for the entire population, thus giving some hope to the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    545. monkeypuzzletree

    Balance! This 400 limit is a pain isn't it!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    The Scottish - bless them - passed the land ownership act in 2003 which gives them the right to roam and acquire land for public need.
    In the UK, the Duke of Westminister, the wealthiest landowner recieved £799,000 in subsidy over two years in 2005.
    Benefit scrounger.
    And some people are shocked when someone steals a pair of trainers and demands their benefit be cut (often they don't claim it)

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    543. monkeypuzzletree

    ...And that was a party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Call me Dave is saying that dishonest bankers and politicians should be punished , probalbaly to set the morale tone. But the question us will they?

    This rediscovery of morality appears, at least in tone, to have been forced on Dave by the riots coming hot on the heels of the hacking scandal. Dave must be wallowing in new found feelings of morality and purpose in life, as the stable broom!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    517. qwerty

    On closing loopholes, how do you stop people, for example, moving out of the country to avoid taxes?

    You don't. You help them pack their bags and remind them to hand back their knighthoods at the airport. You treat them with the contempt they deserve. Frankly anyone who uses an offshore tax haven is no better than someone who steals from a lotted shop

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Ed is talking about an inquiry, because Ed thunks it makes him sound and look like a leader, rather than a buffoon. Of course the previous government bears some responsibility for the morale demise. They afflicted the country with arguably the most amoral leadership since WW2. A leadership that did incaculable damage to the morale fabric of the UK and introduced PC to stifle opposition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
    Mahatma Gandhi
    Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 - 1948)

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    Sex education in schools was supposed to reduce under age sex. Has it?
    Citizenship education is supposed to make people better citizens. Has it?
    Oh dear!

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    When did "Citizenship" become part of the National Curriculum in our schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    "Dear Sir:
    Regarding your article 'What's Wrong with the World?' I am.
    Yours truly,"
    — G.K. Chesterton

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    I've come to recognise that in the UK society I am valued every 4 to 5 yrs by MPs. The rest, whose wages we pay, consider us to be minor irritations & or profit opportunity units. I understood this fact decades ago & live with it. The young, at least the intelligent young recognise this too & are understandably angry. The rest simply go along for the ride. And the police? They stand & watch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    534. ontheroadscot

    Its about impenetrable institutions that ignore what people want and think. Look at the student demonstrations in England. Nothing changed and the very politicians who said they'd oppose cuts changed their minds as soon as the got power. Its not meek just toleration.
    I think the yobs are well aware of the expenses scandal. They know exactly what canary wharf is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    534. ontheroadscot


    I get your drift but I would thank you not to make sweeping generalisations about those you have never met, know nothing about and, therefore, haven't the right to make such assumptions about. In general I do agree with your main points, just how many cars , houses, planes, etc., etc., can one use at the same time. It's that old problem of lack of fulfilment I'd wager.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    Careful what you say, the security services are monitoring social media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    It is disingenuous to suggest that expenses/bankers scandals and the riots are cause and effect. These yobs don't know what an MP is and couldn't name a single investment bank. However the root causes are the same for all three and countless other examples that we all see, but meekly tolerate, every day:

    Greed, Sloth, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath.

    Nothing new here. We are all at fault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    Most land ownership in the UK dates back to Norman times when the Saxons were kicked off or turned into landless serfs.
    Various Monarchs parcelled it out and since the Magna Carter land ownership has been kept secret.
    50% of the land in the UK is unregistered in any way.
    Meanwhile everyone else is crammed into cities, often in flat blocks.
    The land isn't owned by capitalists who have earned it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    523. ship-of-fools


    It really is a scandal. Aristocratic families need to hand back the land that they own.
    The Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Bedford own 70,000 acres of land.
    The Duke of Norfolk's family have owned half of this land since 1483 from what I can gather.
    We are a medieval country. Its pathetic. None of it is earned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    ... man invents bread ... before long ... man expects bread ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    526. indiansummer42

    Thats point isn't about capitalism its about materialism.
    The pursuit of wealth HAS wrecked this country.
    We have a massive trade defecit with China. Bankers seeking bonuses led to the collapse of the economy whilst producing a property bubble. (google Japanese property bubble)
    We are all paying. Can't people aspire to better themselves outside the capitalist model?


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