Letwin warned by Clegg over Sheffield

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin has been warned by Nick Clegg that he faces a hostile reception from the people of Sheffield over his apparent remarks about not wanting more families in the city to be able to afford cheap holidays.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, spoke out after Mr Letwin reportedly told London Mayor Boris Johnson that he did not want to see more families in Sheffield able to afford cheap holidays.

"I suggest to him that he probably wants to tread with care when he comes to visit a city that I love," Mr Clegg told Sky News.

"He has now, I think, overnight become the most controversial politician in Sheffield."

Asked if he believed Mr Letwin should say sorry, Mr Clegg said he did not want to give a "running commentary on comments on comments on comments".

Mr Letwin, who is a millionaire, failed today to deny having made the remarks he reportedly made in a private conversation with Mr Johnson.

Interviewed by Sky News, he also failed to apologise for the comments.

"I do not ever comment on things that are alleged to have been said in private conversations but I would never knowingly ever say anything offensive to anybody," he said.

He added that he was "passionately behind" the announcement by Mr Clegg on social mobility.

"We are passionately devoted to people being able to make the most of their own lives and being able to advance themselves and that is obviously what Nick Clegg is going to be saying today and I am passionately behind it," he said.

Mr Johnson, a fellow Tory, yesterday criticised Mr Letwin's alleged remarks as "absolutely disgraceful" and Labour MPs urged Mr Letwin, an Old Etonian, to apologise and withdraw the remark.

Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham in South Yorkshire, wrote to Mr Letwin saying his remark was "profoundly offensive".

"This is pure snobbery that is unworthy of someone with your wealth and privileged upbringing," Mr MacShane wrote.

"It will confirm the view of many in South Yorkshire that this Cabinet has the same contempt for the region that Margaret Thatcher and John Major showed as they targeted South Yorkshire industries and the culture of the working people of the region in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Can I say these remarks are profoundly offensive to all the people of South Yorkshire who have as much right to enjoy a holiday as the millionaires in the Cabinet."

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said he would try to raise the issue with Mr Clegg in the Commons.

"I'm demanding that David Cameron gets Oliver Letwin to apologise to the people of Sheffield who are as entitled to their foreign holidays as Oliver Letwin and his millionaire colleagues in the Cabinet," he said.

"They enjoy their holidays abroad but don't think ordinary people deserve them.

"It's absolutely double standards and it reflects on the thinking that perhaps explaining some of the policies they are putting in place which are going to hit the North."

Mr Johnson disclosed the remark but did not reveal who made it.

"I was absolutely scandalised the other day to hear a Government minister tell me he did not want to see more families in Sheffield able to afford cheap holidays," he said.

He said it was "absolutely disgraceful, a bourgeois repression of people's ability to take a holiday", adding: "It's a matter of social justice."

Reports emerged that it was Mr Letwin who made the comment.

The Liberal Democrat leader of Sheffield City Council, Paul Scriven, said he had written to Mr Letwin demanding an apology.

Mr Scriven said: "I was shocked to read these reports over the weekend. If the reports are accurate then Mr Letwin should apologise and take up my invitation to come up to Sheffield to explain himself. I won't sit by and see Sheffield people put down.

"As I point out in my letter, I am adamantly in favour of more hard-working families being able to improve their quality of life through things like holidays.

"I know from working with them that Liberal Democrat members of the Government agree, and I assume the rest of Government do too. That's why the coalition is implementing Lib Dem policies such as tax breaks for those on low incomes."

In his letter, Mr Scriven says: "Your comments are both deeply offensive and out of touch with ordinary hard-working families in Sheffield and the rest of the UK."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday: "The Prime Minister, of course, supports the idea of people going on holiday where they choose."

Asked if Mr Cameron thought his Cabinet colleague should apologise, she told reporters: "We do not know what those comments were.

"My understanding is they were made in a private capacity. But the principle is that people are free to go on holiday and it's a right people should have."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before