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Oliver Letwin MP

Position: Minister of State, Cabinet Office

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

• Oliver Letwin is MP for West Dorset and has successfully fought off tough Liberal Democrat campaigns at successive elections.
• He served William Hague as Shadow Chief Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith as Shadow Home Secretary and Michael Howard as Shadow Chancellor.
• He co-ordinated policy for David Cameron throughout the last Parliament and now holds the position of Minister in the Cabinet Office.
• Letwin’s title understates his importance to David Cameron and the Coalition. For ConservativeIntelligence, Letwin has always been one of Cameron’s four most influential parliamentary colleagues (the others being Osborne, Hague and Gove). Letwin was the first senior frontbencher to back Cameron for the Tory leadership in 2005. Steve Hilton – Cameron’s “guru” – has said that he works more closely with Letwin than any other MP.
• Accurately described by the New Statesman as the ‘Gandalf’ of policy-making he has influenced Cameronism in at least four main respects:
o He has been a leading advocate of compassionate conservatism ever since he worked closely with Iain Duncan Smith on the ‘Help The Vulnerable’ campaign from 2001 to 2003. As Shadow Chancellor he convinced Michael Howard to sign up to the timetable for hitting the UN’s 0.7% target for aid spending.
o Influenced by his former speechwriter, Peter Franklin, Letwin became an enthusiast for green politics and persuaded David Cameron to put climate change at the heart of his agenda. Since when George Osborne has forced a dilution of the ambitious Gummer/Goldsmith Quality of Life report that Letwin commissioned.
o Letwin was the first leading advocate of co-operation with the Liberal Democrats and when he was briefly Shadow Environment Minister (2005) he formed a ‘green pact’ with then LibDem spokesman Norman Baker.
o Letwin was sceptical about opposition politicians changing public opinion. He felt that an opposition party would only be heard on a handful of issues and he became an advocate of talking less about tax and immigration, for example, and more about environmental and social justice issues.
• With Francis Maude, he is one of four members of the dull-sounding “Coalition Operation and Strategic Planning Group.” The other members are Liberal Democrats Danny Alexander and former Scottish Deputy First Minister, Lord Wallace. This Cabinet Committee oversees the Coalition machine and ensures implementation of the agenda of the ten person “Coalition Committee”. This Cabinet Committee has been referred to as the “real” Cabinet and Oliver Letwin sits on this Committee too. The PM and Chancellor delegate important cross-departmental roles to him, including liaison with trade unions.
• Letwin, with Hague and Osborne, conducted the negotiations that produced the Coalition deal. He will be vital in forming policy in Years 2, 3 and 4 of the Coalition – Years which the Coalition Agreement do not adequately cover. Less likely but still probable, he will draw up the Manifesto for the next election, too. The big question is whether that Manifesto will be Tory or Lib/Con…

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