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Chief Tory says Cameron government ‘runs like Rolls Royce’ compared to ‘pen-stabbing’ Gordon Brown regime

Oliver Letwin speaking to an audience at the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives' HQ. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Oliver Letwin speaking to an audience at the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives' HQ. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
5:00 PM

One of David Cameron’s key policy-makers has told an audience in Hampstead that the prime minister’s inner circle operates with the “smoothness of a Rolls Royce” in comparison with the administration under Gordon Brown.

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Conservative MP Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy in the Cabinet, gave a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the workings of government during a visit to Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives’ HQ in Heath Hurst Road last Thursday.

The Hampstead-born politician hit back at criticism of No. 10 in an opinion piece in The Times written by John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair and Mr Brown, who described the current No. 10 machine as the “worst in living memory”.

In retort, Mr Letwin said: “Clearly he [Mr McTernan] had been in some other country or maybe some other continent during the time of Mr Brown’s tenure as prime minister.

“The machine now runs with the smoothness of a Rolls Royce compared to what it was during Brown’s term.”

Mr Letwin, a former pupil at The Hall school in Crossfield Road, Hampstead, then recounted an infamous incident which occurred in the wake of the 2010 general election as he and Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander began to draft a coalition agreement.

He said: “Danny Alexander and I moved into part of No. 12 Downing Street, which Brown had turned into his horseshoe-shaped centre of command, behind which there was a little room called the snug, which looked out over Whitehall.

“There was a little mahogany table [where] we sat down to begin work with some civil servants... As we worked through the night, I became more and more interested in the fact that this rather beautifully laminated table had a very large number of tiny pock marks on it and I said to the cabinet secretary, ‘What are these?’

“And he roared with laughter and said, ‘Oh this was Mr Brown’s snug and he had his pen and he’d get very angry and he’d go like this [mimicking downward stabbing motions].’

“That was the smooth running of the machine of the previous occupant.”

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