Oliver Letwin, the Shadow Chancellor, Cannot Expect to Be Taken Seriously While He Draws a Wage from N M Rothschild, Which Has as Many as 92 Corporate Clients

By Hosking, Patrick | New Statesman (1996), December 8, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Oliver Letwin, the Shadow Chancellor, Cannot Expect to Be Taken Seriously While He Draws a Wage from N M Rothschild, Which Has as Many as 92 Corporate Clients


Hosking, Patrick, New Statesman (1996)


It's curious that while MPs and the media rightly spank the London mayoral candidate Steven Norris over his chairmanship of Jarvis, a different conflict of interest compromising a much more senior Conservative goes largely unnoticed. Oliver Letwin's continuing job at N M Rothschild--which pays him 100,000 [pounds sterling], the same as Nozzer is getting at Jarvis--is surely going to land him in hot water eventually.

The shadow chancellor is, I'm sure, an honourable man who would not be swayed one degree by his paymasters or their clients. But by taking the Rothschild shilling, he risks looking compromised whenever he opens his mouth. For his employer's tentacles reach into every corner of the financial markets and industry.

Letwin's territory is equally vast, covering not just the economy and state finances, but also trade and industry. Under the super-expanded role set up by Michael Howard, Letwin shadows Patricia Hewitt at the DTI as well as Gordon Brown at the Treasury.

Letwin is hopelessly compromised on virtually every financial subject. How can he appear objective on the telecoms industry, say, when British Telecom is an old Rothschild client? How can he appear impartial on the bidding wars among supermarkets when the Co-op and Waitrose, both Rothschild clients, help pay his salary? How can his view on energy policy be irreproachably disinterested when British Nuclear Fuels and National Grid both look to Rothschild for advice? How can he speak convincingly on Brown's dumping of Britain's gold reserves when Rothschild is a major player in the gold market?

The same goes for broadcasting, transport, defence procurement, insurance and privatisation: the BBC, the bus and tram operator Arriva, Rolls-Royce, Royal & Sun Alliance and the Tote (a sell-off candidate) all use Rothschild and therefore indirectly pay Letwin's salary.

Letwin, dubbed "the left's favourite Tory" by the Guardian (whose parent company, by the way, is yet another Rothschild client), doubtless needs the money. He did say he would rather go out and beg than send his children to the local comprehensive in Lambeth. But Rothschild is not the right place to earn his money.

Letwin has two defences. First, he needs only four hours of sleep a night, so he can comfortably do both jobs. This misses the point; the problem is not with his capacity for work. Second, according to an aide, he will declare any possible conflict of interest, if he really does that, he's going to have to be disclosing potential conflicts all the time.

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