Oliver Letwin: The 'cleverest stupid person in Westminster'

Victoria Ward
Oliver Letwin - Philip Hollis

He has been described as the "cleverest stupid person in Westminster".

But yesterday it emerged that Sir Oliver Letwin, the former minister credited with the dubious honour of derailing Brexit at the 11th hour, is being controlled by a leading anti-Brexit barrister.

The brains behind Letwin’s “act of sabotage” is Lord Pannick, the crossbench peer who masterminded Boris Johnson’s Supreme Court humiliation.

“This isn't Letwin's amendment, it's Pannick's amendment,” one furious Tory insider frothed this weekend.

“Pannick is the organ grinder-Letwin's just the useful idiot.”

It was Lord Pannick who represented Gina Miller, the anti-Brexit campaigner, when she challenged the Government in court in 2016, demanding MPs be given a chance to block the triggering of Brexit.

Lord Pannick Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley

And it was Lord Pannick who represented the businesswoman again last month, when she successfully challenged the Prime Minister’s bid to suspend Parliament in the Supreme Court.

Unbeknownst to the Prime Minister, Sir Oliver had been colluding with Lord Pannick for up to a month, happily taking on the role of hapless puppet to the scheming puppeteer. 

Their ruse forced Mr Johnson to request an extension even if his deal was passed by the Commons.

It is by no means the first time that Sir Oliver has peddled apparent solutions to political problems, proving a perennial thorn in the side of Prime Ministers past and present.

At times of national crisis, the gaffe-prone, Eton and Cambridge-educated MP can often be found pulling the doomed strings in the background.

He made his name as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, overcoming significant objection to almost single-handedly champion the introduction of poll tax. 

In a 1985 memorandum to Mrs Thatcher, he suggested that the policy could be introduced in Scotland first as “a trailblazer for the real thing”. 

The “real thing” was so unpopular it proved instrumental in the then-Prime Minister’s downfall.

And so his career has continued.

Sir Oliver once allowed two strangers into his house at 5am to use the lavatory, only to find jewellery and his wallet were stolen.

He caused controversy by suggesting he would rather "beg" than send his children to his local comprehensive school and was once caught dumping letters from his constituents in bins in St James’s Park. 

 Sir Oliver, then the Government's policy chief, was forced to apologise in 2015 after Government papers showed he blamed "bad moral attitudes" for the mid 1980s rioting in in Brixton, Toxteth and Handsworth, suggesting that white communities would not have resorted to the same street violence. 

But most embarrassing, perhaps, was the 2001 election, when he was forced into hiding after suggesting in an anonymous interview that his party could slash taxes by £20billion a year by 2006, more than twice the £8billion pledged by William Hague, the then leader.

When identified, the MP was tracked down to to his constituency where he happened to be taking part in a Roman-themed novelty hustings. 

There, television cameras found him dressed in a toga being confronted by Billy Bragg, the singer, who was dressed as a Roman soldier.

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