Oliver Letwin

From Powerbase
Revision as of 16:37, 11 March 2011 by Tom Mills (talk | contribs) (Biography)
Jump to: navigation, search

Oliver Letwin, MP (born May 19, 1956, Hampstead), British Member of Parliament for West Dorset, is Minister of State at the Cabinet Office.[1]

He is Chairman of the Policy Review and Chairman of the Conservative Research Department.


He is the son of William Letwin, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, and conservative academic Shirley Letwin, both of whom were members of the Mont Pelerin Society. The journalist Peter Oborne writes:

He was born in Hampstead on 19 May 1956, the son of two Chicago intellectuals. His father, Professor Bill Letwin, is an economist. His late mother, Dr Shirley Robin Letwin, is better known in Britain: she was a conservative philosopher who became director of the Centre for Policy Studies.


The young Oliver was even then a phenomenon at the famous salons held by the Letwins at their home in Kent Terrace, Regent's Park, in the 1970s. Guests remember Isaiah Berlin, [Michael] Oakeshott, Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek as regular attenders. Oliver Letwin was in due course dispatched to Eton. He met Charles Moore, now editor of the Daily Telegraph, on his first day. They became firm friends and later attended Trinity College, Cambridge where they shared the set of rooms - G3 in New Court... [2]

From 1983 to 1986 he was a member of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit. He unsuccessfully stood against Glenda Jackson for the Hampstead and Highgate seat in the 1992 election, before winning the West Dorset seat in 1997, by the narrow margin of 1,840 votes. In September 2001 he was appointed Shadow Home Secretary, by Iain Duncan Smith. In late 2003 the new party leader, Michael Howard, appointed Letwin his successor as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Policy Focuses

Big Society

According to Nick Seddon, deputy director of the think tank Reform: "Mr Letwin is credited with much of the fundamental thinking behind the big society. He has been a key driving force behind encouraging greater plurality of provision - from the private and third sectors - and the development of new ownership models."[3]

Public Spending

During the campaign for the 2001 general election, Letwin, as shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, expressed an aspiration to curtail future public spending by fully 20 billion pounds per annum relative to the plans of the Labour government. When this proposal came under attack as regressive, Letwin found few allies among his colleagues prepared to defend it, and adopted a low profile for the remainder of the campaign. He famously went into 'hiding' during the 2001 election, and for some time after the election had finished.

As Shadow Chancellor he focused on reducing waste in the public sector. At the 2005 election the Conservative Party claimed to have found £35bn worth of potential savings, to be used for increased resources for front line services and for tax cuts. This approach was credited with forcing the government to introduce bureaucracy reduction and cost-cutting proposals of their own.

Law and Order

As Shadow Home Secretary he attracted plaudits for his advocacy of a "neighbourly society", which manifested itself in calls for street by street neighbourhood policing modelled on the philosophy of the police in New York. He was also largely credited with forcing the Home Secretary to withdraw his proposal in 2001 to introduce an offence of incitement to religious hatred. He successfully argued that such an offence would be impossible to define, so there would be little chance of prosecution. He also argued that Muslims would feel persecuted by such a law.

In May 2005, Letwin was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was reported that he had requested a role less onerous than his former treasury brief so that he would have time to pursue his career in the City at Rothschild's.[1]

Support for Cameron

Following the decision by Michael Howard to stand down as Conservative party leader after the May 2005 general election, Letwin publicly backed the youngest candidate and eventual winner David Cameron, a fellow Etonian. He was subsequently given the newly created role of Chairman of the Policy Review, when Cameron formed his first shadow cabinet in December 2005.


Select Bibliography

  • Oliver Letwin (1987) Ethics, Emotion and the Unity of the Self. Routledge. ISBN 0709941102.
  • Oliver Letwin and John Redwood. (1988) Britain's Biggest Enterprise - ideas for radical reform of the NHS. Centre for Policy Studies. ISBN 187026519X
  • Oliver Letwin (1988) Privatizing the World: A Study of International Privatization in Theory and Practice. Thomson Learning. ISBN 0304315273
  • Oliver Letwin (1989) Drift to union: Wiser ways to a wider community. Centre for Policy Studies. ISBN 1870265742
  • Oliver Letwin (2003) The Neighbourly Society: Collected Speeches. Centre for Policy Studies. ISBN 1903219604

External links


  1. Her Majesty’s Government, Number10.gov.uk, accessed 12 May 2010.
  2. Peter Oborne, 'Letwin intellectual', The Spectator, 24 November 2001; p.18
  3. Health Service Journal, HSJ100 2010, accessed Nov 2010