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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick