Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Letwin’

Thatcher’s rotten government was only interested in discord and division

31/12/2015, 10:29:17 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not just the low-fi racism of Oliver Letwin’s 1985 memo to Margaret Thatcher that appalls. His dismissal of the “bad moral attitudes” of young Black men following the Broadwater Farm riots also reflects ministerial contempt towards so many other groups throughout that dismal decade.

Conservative politics in the mid-1980s was about as far from the ‘One Nation’ variant as it was possible to be. This was a government at war with large parts of the country it ran. Truly, an elective dictatorship, openly contemptuous of those that did not yield to its will.

So the “pampered Scots” were to be pitched against the “envious” north of England when it came to funding allocations. Black people were only interested in the “disco and drug trade”. Northern Ireland’s border towns should be bombed to stop republican suspects escaping to Southern Ireland.

As we well know, the miners were regarded as “the enemy within”. The entire city of Liverpool was to be subject to “managed decline” following the Toxteth riots, while the local football club’s fans were smeared in a vile cover-up over the deaths of 96 of their number at Hillsborough.

As the hapless Lewtin, possessor of an eager mind but dull wits, currently resides in political no-man’s land, waiting to see if his perfunctory apology is enough to sate the reaction against his comments, Tory strategists should perhaps ponder what other toxic memo-bombs he penned during his time running Thatcher’s policy unit. After all, this was the mid-80s, when she was at her wildest and the New Right policy wonks that fuelled her insurgency were unencumbered.

But aside from the trickle of released government papers of that time, we now also have Lowell Goddard’s wide-ranging inquiry into historic child abuse allegations. Just what will she unearth in the next few years about what ministers did or did not know in relation to the slew of allegations about that period?

What we do know is that all the invective and moral outrage directed towards Margaret Thatcher and her ministers during the 1980s was not wasted. We thought the Tories were a heartless, sneering bunch at the time.

Yesterday’s revelations now make that an evidence-based assessment.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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Clarkson may be obnoxious, but Cameron’s loyalty to his friends is admirable

12/03/2015, 06:29:26 PM

“I don’t know exactly what happened” says David Cameron about motoring motormouth Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘fracas’ with a Top Gear producer, but “he is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent.”

Yet again the Prime Minister stands by his friends and allies, even when their backs are against the wall, despite brickbats from his critics and for no discernable short-term advantage to himself.

There’s a pattern here and, in the snake-pit of British politics, something of a curiosity.

Think of the way Cameron kept Andy Coulson under his wing until the bitter end, despite early warnings about his seamy conduct as editor of the News of the World.

The Prime Minister is a reluctant butcher in a business where carving up enemies and allies alike is second nature. Look no further than the way he has kept ministers in cabinet jobs for the full run of this parliament.

It is inconceivable that Iain Duncan-Smith and his, as yet, unfurled universal credit reforms would have been given so much latitude under either Blair or Brown.

Or that Andrew Lansley would have stayed in post long after it was abundantly clear he had made a complete hash of the politics of his NHS reforms.

Or that a figure like Oliver Letwin, the brainy but bumptious ‘Minister of State for Government Policy,’ would become a mainstay of the government frontbench.


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Revealed: How the Tories watered down their original Leveson proposals under pressure from the press barons

15/02/2013, 09:54:43 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s taken an age. The Tories’ proposals for establishing a press regulator through a royal charter have been mooted for months but were only published earlier this week. After David Cameron’s commitment to swift action in the Commons debate, following the publication of the Leveson report last November, they had been expected at the start of January. But weeks passed and nothing emerged. Why the delay? What took so long?

Uncut can exclusively reveal that the Conservatives were in fact ready to publish proposals several weeks ago. A team operating under cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin prepared a draft setting out how the royal charter would operate, in December. This draft was personally authorised by Letwin and cleared at the highest levels in Number 10. It represented the Conservatives’ view of what was needed to establish an effective regulator without statute.

But even this proved to be too much for the press barons and under private pressure from the industry, the Tories have further watered down their proposals. The result has left the cross-party negotiations on Leveson in chaos.

Two changes have been made to the Tories original proposal, weakening regulation beyond the levels even David Cameron and Oliver Letwin felt necessary.

In the December draft of the proposals, seen by Uncut, Letwin’s team enshrined the independence of the recognition body that underpins the press regulator, to protect it from interference by government.

The body could only have its terms of reference altered if backed by a  two-thirds “super-majority” in the House of Commons and it could only be dissolved by an act of parliament. A whole section of the draft document was devoted to this topic:

The Recognition Panel

(1) (An amendment of the Recognition Panel’s Charter has no effect until each House of Parliament has by resolution by the required majority directed that the amendment is to have effect.

(2) The Recognition Panel may not be dissolved otherwise than by way of Act of Parliament.

(3) The reference to an amendment of the Recognition Panel’s Charter is a reference to —

(a) the addition of a provision to the Charter,

(b) the variation of a provision in the Charter, or

(c) the omission of the whole or part of a provision from the Charter.

(4) A resolution under this section is to be regarded as being by the required majority if at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion for the resolution do so in support of it.

(5) A motion for a resolution under this section may be made by any member of the House in question.

(6) “The Recognition Panel’s Charter” means the Royal Charter dated [ ] 2013 under which the Recognition Panel was incorporated.

Sources within the newspaper industry have suggested that publishers were panicked about safeguarding the remit of the recognition body in this way because it effectively removed their ability to pressure  future governments to amend the terms of reference.

The feedback to the Tories from the press camp was robust and unequivocal: preserving the independence of the recognition panel with these protections was unacceptable.


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Whip’s Notebook: Top down NHS reorganisations, Hulk Hogan and Oliver Letwin

05/03/2012, 07:00:22 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Last week the leader of the House of Commons and lord privy seal Sir George Young (who by the way reads my posts for Labour Uncut or at least his special advisers do and then lets him know if I say anything interesting) announced the likely date for the Queens Speech.

Get your diaries out because the next Gracious Address is set to be May 9th. It didn’t come as much of a surprise to Labour MPs as Politics Home’s brilliant Paul Waugh revealed weeks ago. But MPs are always the last to hear these things anyway.

It means we will have had one of the longest parliamentary sessions on record even though we’ve hardly been scrutinising any legislation at all in the Commons in recent months. Instead we’ve been spending our time on innumerable backbench business debates with countless one line whips. All important stuff of course but rather odd when you consider we are elected to be legislators and we’ve not been doing much actual legislating.

Take the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. So despite it being one of the biggest issues in my postbag (actually inbox, nearly everything I get is by email but us MPs like to say “postbag”) and I suspect colleagues’ postbags (inbox) too, MPs have only had the opportunity to debate this monstrous bill in recent weeks because Andy Burnham tabled an opposition motion on the NHS Risk Register and asked what’s known as an urgent question on Nick Clegg’s health amendments as well last week.

So effectively Andrew Lansley in recent weeks has only come to the Commons to defend his policies because Labour has forced him to. Last month at health questions, genuine Lib Dem rebel Andrew George had a question on the order paper asking the Secretary of State whether he would withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill. Did Mr Lansley step up to answer it? No his loyal deputy Simon Burns was sent into the breach instead. “Frit” was the inevitable heckle from the more boisterous Labour MPs.


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Politics – at least it keeps the weirdos off the streets

18/10/2011, 07:30:13 AM

by Tom Harris

As with many previous political scandals, it was my wife who offered a sane perspective.

“When you were a minister, you went on foreign trips, didn’t you”?

“A couple, yes”.

“Well, if you’d told me that you were taking our best man with you on one of them, I would have thought that was nice. But if you’d taken him on 14 of them, I would have asked if I could come instead on at least one of them”.

Which pretty much sums up how odd “Foxgate” (do we really have to call it that)? actually is. And how odd its main protagonist is.

Not that Liam Fox is any weirder than your average high-flying minister, because there’s something of the oddball in anyone who reckons that a career in politics is an acceptable way for a grown up to earn a living. (more…)

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Letwin checking up on Lansley: John Healey’s letter to David Cameron

03/12/2010, 10:56:41 AM

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street



01 December 2010

I welcome the review of the Health Secretary’s plans for the NHS that you have asked Oliver Letwin to undertake, confirmed by No10 and the Treasury to the Financial Times and reported today.

This is the right time for the review, before the Government gets any deeper into the high-cost, high-risk internal reorganisation that Andrew Lansley set out in his White Paper in July.

My concern is for the future of the NHS, and this is entrusted to you and your Health Secretary for now.

This is set to be a period of severe financial squeeze for the NHS. Despite your promise to protect the NHS and to protect NHS funding, the health service is already showing signs of strain. This time next year, when the NHS will be operating on funding from the first year of your Spending Review, rather than the last year of ours, these strains will be much clearer to patients and the public.

This is a period during which the efforts of all in the NHS should be dedicated to making sound efficiencies and improving patient care. It is therefore exactly the wrong time to be forcing the NHS through what the King’s Fund Chief Executive describes as “the biggest organisational upheaval in the health service, probably, since its inception”. (more…)

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