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Wednesday 30 December 2015

Letwin Racism Tarnishes Thatcher Legacy

The release of Government papers under the 30-year rule is another of those seasonal highlights that has the power to embarrass those involved who are still on the political scene. In the mid-80s, Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp, but not all was plain sailing, with rioting in London and Birmingham taxing the minds of her ministers and advisers. One of the latter was a certain Oliver Letwin.
The London rioting had centred on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, many of whose residents were unemployed, disaffected - and black. The older and wiser of Tory ministers, such as David Young, Douglas Hurd and Kenneth Baker, advocated positive action, but Letwin and his colleague Hartley Booth (later a casualty in the litany of “Tory Sleaze”) were having none of it.

They informed Mrs T that “lower-class unemployed white people had lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale” - somehow missing the appalling attitude of the Metropolitan Police towards black youth, which in turn was magnified by press bigotry - before warning “that setting up a £10m communities programme to tackle inner-city problems would do little more than ‘subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops’”. Letwin went to Eton, y’know.
It got worse - a lot worse. Booth and Letwin dismissed suggestions for positive action with “Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes. So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve the inner cities will founder. David Young’s new entrepreneurs will set up in the disco and drug trade”.

Quite apart from underscoring the patronising Tory attitude towards kinds of music they could not comprehend, and the lazy “black equals Rastafarian” stereotype, the worst thing about this saga is that Letwin and Booth prevailed, that Letwin was allowed to have three goes at becoming an MP, and that he is still sufficiently well regarded within the party to have been made David Cameron’s chief policy adviser.
Worse again is that there are some, despite Letwin’s apology - one of those “not really an apology” ones, and only because he got caught - who are still prepared to go in to bat for him. The serially clueless Tim Montgomerie was typical, with “Oliver Letwin's remarks from 30 years ago look badly worded but he's a decent man and in my experience he hasn't a racist bone in his body”. Yeah, right.

As Owen Jones has pointed out, “When Oliver Letwin offered Thatcher his racist advice, he was about my age now, and it was the 1980s, not the 1950s”. Not only are Letwin’s comments deeply ignorant and offensive, his view prevailed within the Thatcher Government of the mid-80s. But listening to Letwin ultimately did not go well for Mrs T: he was an early advocate of trialling the Poll Tax in Scotland.

That’s the Poll Tax that helped lead to Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. Right now, David Cameron, you should be afraid. Very afraid.


Anonymous said...

This is merely publication of what everybody with common sense knew and said at the time:

The tory government, then and now, is sociopathic. They are missing the part that makes life worth living and which makes us human. They'll NEVER CHANGE.

Nor was/is it confined to black people. Ask the mining communities. Ask the steel communities. Ask the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ask the Hillsborough families. Ask the victims of tory press phone hackers. In fact ask anybody with common sense, decency and an instinct for community.

Then check out the "Thatcher legacy" of economic attacks on the city of Liverpool, led by corrupt Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan and all the other loony public schoolboys.

Letwin is merely the latest exposed hypocrite and scoundrel. Once the freedom of information act/30 years rule gets traction the present Bullingdon hoodlums will also be exposed for what they are.

Letwin should be prosecuted for preaching race hatred. But of course he won't be. Anymore than the nastzi propagators of the "Thatcher legacy" will. That's the way our corrupt, rotten-to-the-core "society" is administered.

AndyC said...

How could Thatcher's legacy be MORE tarnished than it already is?

Gweedo Fawkes said...

I'm just popping in to let you know there is anotger petition of mine in the pipeline.

The usual punishment (capital) and a lifetime web ban. Cases where the offender has caused extreme anguish will result in the death penalty being given twice!
This petition will be calling on government to stop the use of loopholes for websites and blogs across international soil.

Please sign it when it comes your way.

rob said...

*Legacies - key to success/failure*

To the land that once ruled the waves
Comes the Tory Boys a bunch of knaves
A tide of blue to see them through
A lot of old bilge for me and you

The savage cuts just for the poor
The swingeing axe cuts to the core
But for the boys all decked in blue
There's a good time had on me and you

We all live in an age of austerity
An age of austerity
An age of austerity
But some are born to survive austerity
Inheritance the key
To survive austerity

Sinking , UK sinking!

SteveB said...

AndyC beat me to it!

After all she did herself I don't think what others said to her can make things a lot worse.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton said...

Is this the Tim Montgomerie who thought the illegal war in Iraq was a good idea?

SimonB said...

It wasn't just Letwin. Prof. Geoff Palmer recounts trying to get a job as a newly qualified botanist. One of the interviewers made appalling racist comments. His name was Keith Joseph.

Carl Eve said...

Those beliefs were pretty prevalent throughout the upper echelons of the city of London during much of the 1980s. I started work at the Bank of England in 1984, aged just 16, and by 1989 I’d worked my way up to assistant to the Editor of The Old Lady magazine (basically a secretarial role to the Editor – me and him were the total staff), which was an in-house rag written for and by Bank staff and Bank pensioners. It would secure some pretty impressive interviews with banking folk who were happy to talk to the magazine and not the proper press.
It also meant the editor and I (if it was deemed suitable) would occasionally attend early afternoon little drinkie-poos with the upper set of the Bank.
So, in 1989 I was preparing to leave the Bank after working there five years. I was a dopey 21 year old really and realised banking wasn't for me and I aimed to return to school/poly. I’d handed in my notice and was keen to leave and I think it was my last week, possibly my last day.
By this time a Chris Oti had joined the Bank of England. He had found deserving fame as a fantastic winger with the England rugby team. His impressive efforts against Ireland the previous year led to the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" being sung and its since become the team's anthem. Anyways, I'm standing with my boss and a couple of other chinless wonders in the ground-floor bar of Kings Arms Yard (a restaurant/cafe/bar building up an alleyway at the rear of the Bank) and the then deputy governor Sir George Blunden – who for my money was dead ringer for a Blofeld clone out of the Bond movies. They were chattering about sport and various banking types and some wag joked about the arrival of Oti and whether he could be put on the Bank of England’s own rugby team as a ringer and perhaps it’d mean there’d be more trophies in the sporting cabinet at Roehampton.
I wasn’t really listening, although I’d watched the match, knew Oti was a bloody fast runner and that he was black.
Then I heard Blunden say something very close to “well, I suppose we have to let these nignogs in eventually”.
Now, for me, I remember blinking suddenly and thinking “Sorry? did I just hear that… did he say nignogs…? What? Did he just say they have to ‘let them in eventually’? Fucking what?” and then looking at the other three or four suits standing there with wine glasses in their hands. And they were doing that nervous laughter thing people who are unsure of how to respond. Or they were really laughing that chinless wonder laugh when they find something amusing. And I remember standing there thinking “do I say something? Do I say something in front of my editor boss who wants to keep his job and I’m leaving soon and well, did I really hear him say nignogs, about Chris Oti, who is frankly a fecking legend?”
I didn’t laugh along. My face must’ve been rather blank by comparison to their smiles and I looked at this Blofeld-looking bloke and thought “you’re the fucking deputy governor and you’ve just said that about a great English rugby player and one of your newest employees…”
So as they continued their chat about rugby and banking, I nodded to my boss and left.
Never told anyone for fear I’d never be believed and because I’d have my arse sued off me.
Sorry Chris.