Top Tory in “racist” storm after comments on black crime

Tory Oliver Letwin let the racist cat out of the bag

Tory Oliver Letwin let the racist cat out of the bag

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin – regarded as one of the main intellectual influences on the modern Conservative Party – is at the centre of a storm over “racist” comments he made in the mid-1980s.

Letwin’s remarks will be published tomorrow by the UK’s National Archives, as part of the annual release for documents from 30 years ago. They form part of a discussion at the highest levels of Margaret Thatcher’s government, following riots in October 1985 on the Broadwater Farm estate in North London, where Police Constable Keith Blakelock was butchered by a mob of machete-wielding black thugs.

While many of his fellow Tories urged liberal responses – i.e. throwing money at black ghettos – Letwin and his colleague Hartley Booth advised Mrs Thatcher:

“The root of social malaise is not poor housing, youth ‘alienation’ or the lack of a middle class. Lower-class unemployed white people lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale.

“Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes. So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve inner cities will founder.”

They mocked suggestions that government money should fund young black entrepreneurs:

“New entrepreneurs will set up in the disco and drug trade; refurbished council blocks will decay through vandalism and neglect; and people will graduate from employment programmes into unemployment or crime.”

Booth (who eventually succeeded Thatcher as MP for Finchley from 1992 to 1997) added that the proposal to spend £10m on a “communities programme” in the riot-hit area would merely “subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops”.  He warned in a later memo that there had been reports of Broadwater Farm residents acquiring petrol bombs and napalm.

Murdered policeman Keith Blakelock (left) and a court reporter's drawing of Nicholas Jacobs, who was cleared of PC Blakelock's murder in 2014.  The killing remains officially unsolved.

Murdered policeman Keith Blakelock (left) and a court reporter’s drawing of Nicholas Jacobs, who was cleared of PC Blakelock’s murder in 2014. The killing remains officially unsolved.

These comments by Letwin and Booth are not officially published until tomorrow, but an error by online journalists who had been given an advance briefing (on condition they did not report the contents until tomorrow) has meant the story broke early.  Predicatably leftwingers have expressed outrage.  Labour Party spokesman John Ashworth demanded a retraction:

“These offensive remarks are very concerning, particularly given his very senior position in the current Government as David Cameron’s policy supremo.

“I’m sure Mr Letwin will want to clarify these remarks and apologise as soon as possible.”

Sadly we expect Letwin will be forced to grovel: no one in the mainstream media will dare to reflect on whether his words might have been true.

8 AM update: The full Downing Street file on the Broadwater Farm riot has been published this morning and can be downloaded here as a PDF.

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