OLIVER Letwin, the chief policy advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has apologised for derogatory remarks made in the aftermath of the 1985 inner-city riots that engulfed London.
Downing Street filed released on Wednesday December 30 by the National Archives reveal that the former Eton schoolboy criticised the black community by telling Thatcher 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”.
He also declared that a £10 million communities program proposed in the aftermath of the Tottenham and Handsworth riots would do little more than “subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops”.
The newly released files reveal the extent to which the conservative cabinet was divided in constructing a positive response and the seriousness with which they took the perceived threat.
Letwin and disgraced preacher and inner cities advisor Hartley Booth were instrumental in persuading Thatcher to dismiss educative and community based solutions to youth alienation instead suggesting that “Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes” while proposing religious schools as an alternative.
Home Secretary at the time Douglas Hurd warned that alienated black youth posed “a grave threat to the social fabric” of the country, while Thatcher and the cabinet were under the dangerous misapprehension that rioters had acquired napalm.
Letwin has since said “I want to make clear that some parts of a private memo I wrote nearly 30 years ago were both badly worded and wrong. I apologise unreservedly for any offence these comments have caused and wish to make clear that none was intended.”