Conservative Diary

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The importance of Oliver Letwin

Oliver Letwin with Owen Paterson MP at the launch of the Tory manifesto.

Screen shot 2010-04-14 at 06.55.40 He wasn't one of the shadow cabinet ministers invited to address the 90 minute launch. He sat near the back of the stage but I rang Oliver last night to congratulate him on the Tory manifesto. Without Steve Hilton's enthusiasm the manifesto would never have happened but it is the Tory Head of Policy who is the intellectual force behind this document.

Daniel Finkelstein reaches the same conclusion in The Times;

"Letwin’s manifesto — with its claim to a big idea, its policies for handing back power to communities, its talk of a Big Society — definitely comes from the modern too-clever- by-half faction of the Conservative Party. And with its emphasis on a smaller State, its methods owe much to the Thatcherites. But with its interests in nurturing the softer virtues — compassion, community, group spirit, kindness, neighbourliness — it has moved beyond Thatcherism."

Oliver has been a hugely important influence on the whole Cameron project. He was, as Danny writes, the first shadow cabinet minister to back David Cameron's leadership bid. His caution about cutting tax; his enthusiasm for green issues; his desire to reach out to the Liberal Democrats; his support for greater redistribution have all become hallmarks of Cameronism.

Despite the suggestion that Samantha Cameron was the author of the quote, 'There is such a thing as society, it's just not the state', it was actually Oliver Letwin who first delivered the remark that encapsulates Cameronism. He delivered the line on 2nd July 2002 to the Adam Smith Institute. Yesterday's manifesto was a tribute to one man's faithfulness to a massive idea.

Tim Montgomerie


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