Cameron adviser apologizes for racist comments 30 years ago


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LONDON (AP) — A British cabinet minister has been forced to apologize for a memo he wrote 30 years ago blaming rioting in predominantly black neighborhoods on the "bad moral attitudes" of the residents.

Olivier Letwin, who heads the Cabinet Office and is a senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, apologized "unreservedly for any offense these comments have caused" and said the memo was "badly worded and wrong."

Letwin apologized after the National Archives Wednesday released a 1985 memo that he and a colleague wrote to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

They warned her away from investing in the affected inner-cities areas, saying it would be a waste of public money, at a time when some of her senior ministers were calling for public investment to help minority-owned businesses.

Letwin and co-author Hartley Booth told Thatcher that any money pumped into the blighted areas would end up supporting the "disco and drug trade."

The comments in the memo drew immediate condemnation.

Labour Party legislator David Lammy, who was raised near one of the north London neighborhoods hardest hit, said Letwin's comments are "an indication of how the powerful can be so utterly, utterly out of touch."

He said the riots "had nothing to do with moral bankruptcy and everything to do with social decay and the appalling relations between black youths and the police."

Trevor Phillips, who formerly headed the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission, said Letwin's apology was insufficient.

He said the comments in the memo are "pretty outrageous" but probably would not have "raised a single eyebrow at the time."

The memo was released by the National Archives under a rule requiring most government documents to be made public after three decades.

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Gregory Katz

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