Ed Miliband links riots to scandals

Labour leader Ed Miliband today linked looting and riots which swept England to the MPs' expenses scandal, banking crisis and phone hacking.

He claimed the breakdowns in society showed people had lost their sense of right and wrong.

Mr Miliband said: "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."

He believed the scandals went to the heart of the "sense of right and wrong" and claimed there was a "me first" culture.

He welcomed some of the tough sentences given to those involved in the past week's rioting across the country, saying: "It's right the courts are handing down exemplary sentences because there needs to be a signal sent that we won't tolerate these things in our society, that it's not OK to do these things."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Miliband admitted Labour's role in laying the foundations for the riots which exploded last weekend.

He lamented the party's failure to cut inequality during its 13 years in power, saying: "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 added: "We did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic of our country."

The Labour leader repeated calls for a public inquiry into the riots, saying "knee-jerk reactions often don't work".

Mr Miliband wanted an offical investigation "not so a bunch of academics can sit in Whitehall, but so the good, decent people of Tottenham who hated what happened to their community get their voice heard".

He said: "I really hope the Prime Minister in the next couple of days, before everything dissipates and the dust settles, agrees to that public inquiry."

He added: "We have got to ask why do we have people in our society who feel that the way they can get on and the right thing to do is go and nick the telly, engage in the kind of looting we saw.

"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."

During a visit to Brixton, south London, this morning, Mr Miliband met business owners and people affected by the disorder.

Among them were Joshua Price and Lionel Owusu, who are supporting the Peace in the Streetz campaign.

Mr Owusu said: "We absolutely condemn the violence but you have to look at the causes - causes are not excuses.

"People have got nothing and would rather be top of the criminal world than bottom of society.

"You have to address their education and aspirations."

Mr Miliband will attend a community meeting in Brixton later.