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'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Is Letwin deliberately trying to undermine the Conservative Party?

Dear Oliver Letwin MP, if reports of a private conversation he has had with London Mayor Boris Johnson (which the latter has chosen to speak about) are accurate, then he (Letwin) is a prize chump with the political antennae of an amoeba - and that is probably deeply insulting to all right-thinking amoebae. According to a report of a 'row' Boris is said to have had with him, the conversation with Letwin went thus:

Boris Johnson has had a blazing row with a Tory Cabinet minister who privately told the London Mayor that the Government doesn’t want people flying abroad on holiday.

Johnson told a "People's Question Time" event: "I was absolutely scandalised the other day to hear a government minister tell me he did not want to see more families in Sheffield able to afford cheap holidays.

"Absolutely disgraceful, a bourgeois repression of people’s ability to take a holiday. It is a matter of social justice."

Who was the Tory minister concerned? Impeccable sources tell me it was Oliver Letwin, the Hampstead-born minister of state at the Cabinet Office, 'leading Cameroon thinker' and former investment banker.

One can only speculate on the motives of Boris Johnson having revealed this embarrassing exchange, as James Delingpole did in the Telegraph on 2nd April here. A small extract:

Once again we see Boris positioning himself as the ideological conscience of the Conservative party. I’m not suggesting he doesn’t also believe this stuff: I’m sure he does, with a passion. But politically it makes sense too for Boris understands clearly, as his party leadership apparently does not, the Conservative party in Britain is in dire, dire trouble. And the root of this malaise is precisely this mix of snooty remoteness, intellectual woolliness and odious wetness exhibited by senior party figures like Oliver Wetwin.

Wetwin, let it not be forgotten, is not some random pillock on the fringes of the Tory party. He is the Prime Minister’s key policy adviser. If somebody that influential cannot understand why trying to clamp down on cheap holiday flights (as indeed the government is doing: through the swingeing eco-taxes imposed on air travel) is inimical to Conservatism, then truly the Tory party is doomed.

- the whole article is worth reading.

I suppose the only crumb of comfort to draw from this debacle for the Conservative Party is that there does not seem to be a video-clip or voice-recording of Letwin dropping these pearls of wisdom (and amazingly-outdated snobbishness) on a breathless British public. The fact that LibDem Coalition partner and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is the MP for a Sheffield constituency only adds to the excruciating nature of Letwin's wrong-thinking and mis-analysis of what Conservatism should be all about - personal freedom and individual liberty - not some Conservative 'grandee' trying to dictate the lives of masses of his fellow citizens. He really needs to get out more - and remember that even folks in Sheffield and other northern cities have a vote and that their votes will play a part in determining the electoral future of the Conservative Party.


  1. I rather think that Oliver Letwin has the same characteristic as Sir Keith Joseph - saying what is in his mind without thought as to its possible consequences. Like Sir Keith, he is I understand a man of considerable brain power but shares a lack of political nous. Whilst deploring the snobbery in his statement, I can't help feeling the world would be a less happy place without such holy innocents to provide merriment and the excuse for the decent to be shocked at the thought of someone speaking his mind.

  2. You are of course probably absolutely correct - and the world would indeed be a much poorer and duller place without such people - even the Dennis Skinners of this world from the other end of the spectrum.

  3. Taking my point a little further, it's a pity we have such a gutter press that takes such a delight in finding gaffes and inconsistencies in what politicians say that we have a generation of mealy mouthed eunuchs. As you say folk like Dennis Skinner (who I suspect has got the meddling in Libya spot on) and indeed Oliver Letwin, even Vince Cable, are adornments however much we might disagree with them. I would be far happier in an environment where politicians of all persuasions could be free to think aloud - it was called flying kites once - and indeed for them to be able to admit to misjudgements and mistakes free of the expectation the media have created of infallibility. Mind I doubt that Alex Salmond can ever admit error - no flies on the Kingfish.


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