Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 March 2010
Commissions of inquiry play an important role in the aftermath of crisis, by serving as instruments of accountability and policy learning. Yet crises also involve a high-stake game of political survival, in which accountability and learning pose a serious threat to incumbent politicians. The political decision of whether to appoint a commission of inquiry after a crisis thus provides a unique prism for studying the intense conflict between politics, accountability and policy learning. Using data from the United Kingdom, this study develops and tests a choice model for this political decision. The results show that the political decision to appoint inquiries into public crises is strongly influenced by short-term blame avoidance considerations, media salience and government popularity.
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49 Variations in the number of non-inquired issues are visually evident, yet no significant differences were found between election and non-election periods, between prime ministers, and between government terms.
53 The original coding instructions included four categories. The first two – ‘private individuals or corporations’ and ‘local authorities’ were merged into one category – ‘remote blame’ (see coding instruction in Appendix 1).
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58 Comparing the media salience of twenty inquiry issues between the Independent and The Times (averaged) to the Daily Mail (including the Sunday editions of all three newspapers) yielded a strong and significant correlation: r = 0.807, p < 0.001.
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