Another day, another call for an inquiry, this time on Lynton Crosby’s potential influence on the cigarette-plain packaging reversal. Ed Miliband loves calling for inquiries. I know I’m not the first one to remark upon this but it certainly bears repeating.
Public inquiries have their place. They can compel evidence, they can piece together bits of puzzles and come to a conclusion. But most of the inquiries Miliband calls for won’t achieve this. You see, he begins from a standpoint of ‘the public deserving to know the truth’. And, yes, I don’t fundamentally disagree with this. Of course, the public deserve to know the truth but is it the case that they will only believe the truth if it comes at them via a public inquiry?
There are people out there telling the truth on all sorts of things everyday. They have statistics to back up their claims, statements, things people should not have said but did. You’ve got disability campaigners, NHS campaigners, pro-unionists, anti-unionists, bankers, lobbyists, donors. All these people are making their voices heard. Yes, perhaps an inquiry into every single contested idea would be good in one respect – it would sift out the information and spoon-feed it to the public. But who’s to say the conclusion is the ‘right’ one?
At the end of the day, all the relevant information is usually at our fingertips. We can request government data under the FOI act – and we can publicly condemn them if they refuse to supply it. We can read, we can inform ourselves, we can think for ourselves instead of swallowing what the mainstream media – and the party leaders – want us to believe.
But it requires one simple thing: effort.
And that is perhaps why Miliband calls for an inquiry at every turn: he knows the general public has no interest in making the effort to sift through facts and find their own truth from them. He knows that his best shot at gaining power is calling for this inquiry or that inquiry and making out that he did so to enlighten the public. Well, the public already had a shot at being enlightened. It’s their own fault they never took it.