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The Right Honourable
 Oliver Letwin

Chairman of the Policy Review and Chairman of the Conservative Research Department
Assumed office 
6 December 2005
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Office Created

In office
5 May 2005 – 6 December 2005
Preceded by Theresa May
Succeeded by Peter Ainsworth

In office
6 November 2003 – 5 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Michael Howard
Succeeded by George Osborne

In office
18 September 2001 – 6 November 2003
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by Ann Widdecombe
Succeeded by David Davis

Member of Parliament
for West Dorset
Assumed office 
1 May 1997
Preceded by James Spicer
Majority 2,461 (4.6%)

Born 19 May 1956 (1956-05-19) (age 53)
Hampstead, London
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Isabel Grace Davidson
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge /
London Business School

Oliver Letwin (born 19 May 1956, Hampstead) is a British Conservative Party politician. He is currently a Member of Parliament representing the constituency of West Dorset, and is the Chairman of the Conservative Research Department and Chairman of the Conservative Party's Policy Review.


Early life

Letwin is the son of William Letwin, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, and conservative academic Shirley Letwin. Letwin was educated at Hall School in Hampstead and Eton College. He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, before earning a PhD at the London Business School. Whilst a student at Cambridge, he was an active member of the Cambridge University Liberal Club. When asked about his membership of the liberal club he explained:

"I was also a member of the Fabian Society. But I am sorry to have to tell you that this was because I was interested in the thoughts of Liberals and Fabians (and still am) rather than because I was ever a Liberal Democrat or a Fabian."

From 1980-81, Letwin was a visiting fellow (a Procter Fellow) of Princeton University, then a research fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge, from 1981-82.

Political career

From 1983 to 1986, he was a member of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit. He stood at the 1987 election for Hackney North, and again 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.

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 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.

Member of Parliament

He is a member of the Conservative Party. He is also a non executive director of NM Rothschild Corporate Finance Ltd (a merchant bank).


Shadow Cabinet

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.

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.

At the 2001 election Letwin had a majority of just 1,414 in his constituency. There was some speculation as to whether he could retain his seat if Labour voters voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats in order to unseat him. However, at the 2005 general election, he increased his majority to 2,461.

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.[1]

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.

Expenses claims

Oliver Letwin reportedly agreed to repay a bill for £2,145 for replacing a leaking pipe under the tennis court at his constituency home in Somerset, which he had claimed on his parliamentary expenses. [2]

Personal life

He married Isabel Grace Davidson on 14 September 1984 in Cambridge. They have a twin son and daughter born in July 1993. His grandparents were Jewish Ukrainians who moved to America.

After two strangers on his London street had asked if they could use his toilet at 5am in 2002, and he charitably obliged, they then stole his credit cards and other belongings. He luckily retrieved his credit cards after chasing the accomplices in his dressing gown and pyjamas.[3] In January 2008, in a discussion on the BBC Question Time programme, Letwin stated that he is an atheist. He once declared that he'd rather beg on the street then let his children go to an inner city comprehensive school.[4][5]

Letwin's wealth is estimated at £1.5m.[6]

See also


Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Spicer
Member of Parliament for West Dorset
Political offices
Preceded by
Ann Widdecombe
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
David Davis
Preceded by
Michael Howard
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
George Osborne

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

Simple English

Oliver Letwin (born May 19, 1956) is an English politician and he is currently the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office as well as the Chairman of Policy Review, and Chairman of the Conservative Research Department. He is the Member of Parliament for the West Dorset constituency in the United Kingdom. He was first elected in the 1997 general election.

He is a member of the Conservative Party.


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