As British politicians and the public struggle to find reasons for the riots that have convulsed the nation this week, opposition leader Ed Miliband said Friday they reflected the selfish, materialistic nature of modern society.
"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,” the Labour Party chief told the BBC.
"It's about irresponsibility, wherever we find it in our society.”
Miliband connected the rioting and looting to other lapses in morality, including the banking crisis and the recent scandal involving MP’s fraudulent expenses.
"We've seen in the past few years MPs' expenses, what happened in the banks, what happened with phone hacking," he said. "We need responsibility right through our country. Responsibility is the most important word in politics.”
Continue Reading Below
"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."
Miliband did concede that his Labour Party must share some of the blame, citing that while in power for 13 years, it failed to ease inequality and tackle the widening wealth gap in the country.
"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. "We did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic of our country."
Moreover, he linked the riots to a wider collapse in social responsibility exemplified by the banking crisis and MPs expenses scandal.
In addition, Miliband said he wants to open a public inquiry into the riots in the event Prime Minister David Cameron fails to do so.
"We have got to avoid simplistic answers,” Miliband declared. "There's a debate some people are starting: Is it culture, is it poverty and lack of opportunity? It's probably both."
Cameron himself seems to agree with Miliband on the factors behind the riots – blaming a British society that has become”broken” and “sick.”
The prime minister told the House of Commons Thursday he seeks to "restore a sense of stronger sense of morality and responsibility."
Meanwhile, the Commons home affairs committee will start its own inquiry Sept. 6, with London Mayor Boris Johnson as its first witness.
The 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."