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.
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”.
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.