Market crash
Campaigners want a full public inquiry into the UK's economic crisis (Reuters)

Long before calling for public inquiries was made fashionable by the Labour party, one group of angry, politically cognisant members of the public decided that enough was enough with politicians, bankers, and the economy.

The Campaign for an Independent Inquiry into the Economic Crisis in the UK, as it is not-so-pithily named, has struggled to gain traction in the 18 months since it started, but that has not assuaged its supporters' passion or quenched their burning rage.

"Obviously [the financial crisis] was a catastrophe. It was a train crash. Utterly predictable, I have to say, and a number of people were predicting it, but nobody in parliament wanted to rock the boat," Richard Vass, the campaign's spokesman, told International Business Times UK.

"Vince Cable mentioned a couple of things and that all of a sudden escalated him into being a bit of a guru rather than the idiot that I think he is.

"Basically a bunch of us like-minded politically interested people, when the whole crash was occurring and in the aftermath of it, wanted to try and get a petition signed with enough people so parliament would be forced to consider having a judicial inquiry over the whole financial collapse."

Parliamentary inquiry into banking

The House of Commons voted for a parliamentary inquiry into the current banking crisis after a fierce debate between the coalition government and the Labour party.

Labour called for the inquiry to be public, saying that it must be independent of politicians in order to be credible both in substance and the eyes of the public.

Prime Minister David Cameron rejected this, arguing a public inquiry would be took expensive and take too long to conclude.

Cameron said he wants to include its recommendations into banking reform legislation due to be debated in parliament in early 2013.

"A parliamentary inquiry is as good as the Police Complaints Commission investigating dodgy coppers, or the Catholic church investigating paedo priests," Vass said.

"There is no vested interest on the inside for making somebody look bad, so it is quite likely that we will be in the position of business as usual.

"A judicial inquiry would actually represent the interests of the people and the country. We are all collectively paying vast, unbelievable amounts of money to pay for the cock-ups."

When challenged on if such a broad public inquiry would take too long to reach a conclusion, and that action on reform must take place as soon as possible else there be a risk similar mistakes are made again, Vass said: "If it is going to take too long it is going to take too long.

"One could more clearly define the goals and the objectives and do it quickly. If you said it had to be completed within 12 months it would have to be completed within 12 months, rather than keeping it open ended."

Answers on the financial crisis questions

Vass said the campaign wants answers on how and why the financial crisis happened, as well as who was responsible for it.

According to their website, the group wants a public inquiry with a broad remit, from probing the pre-crisis supply of credit to the effect of vast amounts of public expenditure on education and health.

"Why did the Government relax lending controls and were legitimate warnings ignored?" asks the campaign website.

"Why did regular warnings that house price rises were unsustainable go unheeded? Why were banks and financial institutions allowed to take excessive risks and what regulations might have helped?"

Vass insists it is "not a witch hunt"

"It is to learn. That is why we study history and nobody seems to be really studying in depth how the situation occurred," he said.

Richard Vass
Richard Vass (pictured) is the spokesman for the inquiry campaign (R. Vass)

What went wrong: borrowing, debt and bailouts

The heart of the country's economic problem in the build-up to the financial crisis, Vass argues, is its vast amounts of borrowing and imbalance of trade between imports and exports, heavily weighted towards the former.

"We were doing things that it was clear to anybody that we were absolutely gorging ourselves on a body of debt, saying the economy was in good shape and everything was fine," he said, adding that the high level of borrowing and how public debt was reported needs forensic, independent scrutiny.

After multi-billion pound bailouts of British banks deemed "too big to fail" during the financial crisis - which came to a total of £850bn according to the public purse watchdog the National Audit Office - Vass said the country must ask whether it "believes in the free market or not".

RBS was the biggest beneficiary of taxpayers' cash, with around £45bn being ploughed into the institution to keep it afloat, else risk depositors and investors losing a substantial amount of cash if it were to go bust.

"This whole concept of too-large-to-fail was certainly one that I never subscribed to. There would have been a lot of pain, had some of the bigger banks been allowed to fail," Vass said.

"It would have been catastrophic and disastrous, but we would have recovered and we would have recovered far faster than we are in the present status.

"Not all the banks would have failed. It would only have been the banks who misbehaved who failed.

"The other banks would have stepped in to provide services for us. Government money would have been far better spent protecting depositors rather than investors."

Campaign struggling to pick up momentum

The campaign has been going for about 18 months, but so far it has failed to snatch the attention of the wider public.

"It is very, very difficult for these types of thing, unless they get some kind of national media coverage, to grab anybody else's attention," Vass said.

Several thousand people have signed the petition calling for a wide-reaching public inquiry into the economic crisis, some distance from the 100,000 required to kickstart a parliamentary debate.

Under rules brought in by the government, any official petition that gets more than 100,000 signatures must have its subject considered for debate by parliament.

The inquiry campaign has ambitiously, if a little over-optimistically, set its sights on a million signatures.

Vass stresses that his campaign is apolitical.

"It may well be that it would bring the Labour party out in a bad light, I would suspect, but that's not the point of it," he said.

"The point isn't to make the Conservatives look like saviours, because frankly they are not doing much of a better job as far as I can see.

"It is not starting from a point of trying to be partisan in any way."

With the current recession - Britain's second in four years - looking like it will continue into the latter half of the year, public anger at how the economy is being and has been handled will surely grow - as might the number of signatures on the campaign's petition.