Oliver Letwin's crash course in cycle safety

Our diarist notes a rather startling disregard for the rudiments of road safety from the former Cambridge don in philosophy who heads up Tory policy

Share

Oliver Letwin, the policy wonk in the Cabinet Office, is one of the most appealing of Conservative ministers (a title for which the competition is admittedly far from stiff), and not only because of the absent-mindedness which led him to be photographed chucking away government papers in waste bins in St James’s Park. He is a minister who thinks and forms opinions instead of spouting civil servant speak.

The result, though, can be somewhat startling, as pupils at Bridport’s St Mary’s Primary School in Letwin’s West Dorset constituency have discovered. They invited him into the classroom to talk about why 11- and 12- year-olds should be compelled to wear helmets when cycling. To their surprise, he did the opposite. According to View from Bridport, he told them: “I’m against legislation that would make wearing cycle helmets compulsory. I think things like that should be down to the individual. I don’t think wearing seat belts in cars or wearing helmets on motorbikes should be compulsory either.”

For the record, the statisticians reckon countries which have made the wearing of seat belts in cars compulsory have had a 20 per cent fall in road deaths, and the Transport Research Laboratory has calculated that crash helmets could have saved the lives of 10 to 16 per cent of cyclists who have died on the roads.

Twigg took his courage from a Coward

“I had great teachers,” the shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg told the final day of the Labour conference. “One of them was called Mr Coward.

Mr Coward gave me the courage to become the first pupil from Southgate Comprehensive to go to Oxford.”

Coward – courage: a clear case of nominative counter-determinism.

Yvette ducks clash with memory man

Whether or not you agree with David Cameron that Ed Balls, pictured, is “the most annoying person in modern politics” he is indubitably one of the most competitive. He was shamelessly proud of the two goals he scored in the match against the press before the Labour conference, despite a rumour he dived to gain a penalty.

Later, he toured the stalls, and tried out a competitive memory game organised by the Charities Aid Foundation, outscoring his fellow MPs. According to Hannah Terry, CAF’s head of policy: “The next day he brought Yvette. He popped his head round and said: ‘Am I still top?’ I told him he was. He said: ‘Yvette, come here and look – I’m top.’ I asked Yvette if she wanted to play, but she didn’t. I’m not sure she wanted to get into a competition.”

Straw’s bus ride into the real world

In 1997, there was a story doing the rounds about a Tory who had been in government for so long, riding in chauffeur-driven limousines, that he left his home in a hurry one morning, climbed into the back of his vehicle and sat there wondering why it was not moving. I always thought this was apocryphal, until I saw a passage from Jack Straw’s memoir, Last Man Standing, about the shock of travelling like an ordinary Joe after 13 years in Cabinet: “I was dozing gently. I felt for the seat belt. It wasn’t in its usual position. I guessed it was time for The Archers – I’d ask the detective in front to turn on Radio 4. Luckily, I stirred from my torpor. I was no longer in the rear of a police vehicle. The man in front was not a detective, but a fellow passenger. I was on the 159 bus.”

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Upholsterer

£9 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are seeking excellent indi...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Managed IT Services Provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
 

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral