05 October, 2006

Oliver Letwin

Oliver Letwin is the chairman of the Conservative Party's Policy Review Group and chairman of the Conservative Research Department. As such he is one of leading standard bearers for Cameron's new touchy-feely brand of lefty conservatism. This week he has been demonstrating his dampness by proclaiming "an unambiguous commitment to the growth of Britain's public services" and "a 'new partnership' with the professions."

Letwin's hagiographical profile on the Conservative website says tersely:

He was a member of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit from 1983-1986, after being Special Adviser to Secretary of State for Education and Science (1982-1983)...
Enough of that Oliver Letwin.

In about 1983, from within Mrs Thatcher's Downing Street Policy Unit, came a bright idea: removing the largest items of expenditure from local government would facilitate the introduction of a poll tax. Education was the largest item but it was politically impossible to privatise the schools, as the right had discovered between 1981 and 1983. However, removing Further Education from local authority control would be much less controversial. One particularly right wing Policy Unit advisor, therefore, persuaded the Environment minister, to look seriously at abolishing Further Education. The argument was that private sector training companies could provide craft training (the staple of FE in those days) better than the local authority FE colleges. Nothing came of the idea but the advisor's name was Oliver Letwin.

Source: Hargraves, G.
From TVEI to CTC. Unpublished MEd disssertation, University of Leeds, 1992.

Is it a coincidence or are there two Oliver Letwins?

I have no objection to politicians changing their views over time but, when it happens without an explanation, it lays the individuals involved open to charges of hypocrisy and opportunism.

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