BUNGLING senior Tory Oliver Letwin should visit Sheffield and make a personal apology after allegedly saying he didn’t want people from the city flying abroad on cheap holidays, it was claimed today.
A furious Coun Paul Scriven, the Liberal Democrat council leader, said he was “shocked” to read reports of Mr Letwin’s comments.
The Cabinet Office Minister, a key policy adviser to David Cameron, is believed to have made the extraordinary outburst during an argument with London mayor Boris Johnson about building new airports.
Mr Johnson said he was “absolutely scandalised” to hear such views.
Mr Letwin, who has not denied making the comments, yesterday appeared to be in hiding. His spokeswoman refused to comment.
But Downing Street slapped down his cheap flights jibe. A Number 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister “supports the idea of people going on holiday where they choose”.
It is not the first time hapless MP Mr Letwin has disappeared following an embarrassing gaffe.
During the 2001 general election, he had to go into hiding after suggesting the Tories would cut taxes by £20 billion a year rather than the £8bn they had offered.
Labour then hired some bloodhounds and dressed up a press officer as Sherlock Holmes.
The elusive Tory was eventually found at a toga party in his Dorset constituency.
Coun Scriven has written to Mr Letwin, inviting him to come to Sheffield to explain his comments to local people.
He 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.”
Meanwhile, MPs across South Yorkshire also demanded an apology.
Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield said: “Oliver Letwin’s remarks are deeply insulting. David Cameron should apologise on his behalf to the people of Sheffield.
“Oliver Letwin and the other Tory and Lib Dem millionaires in the Cabinet are quick to take their own expensive foreign holidays. What’s his problem with Sheffield people going away on holiday?”
Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour MP Angela Smith has written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the MP for Hallam, to demand he condemns Mr Letwin’s remarks. Mr Clegg is answering questions in the Commons today and is likely to face a barrage from Labour MPs.
Ms Smith said: “Now the cat’s out of the bag, we now know what this Tory-led Government really thinks about the good people of Sheffield. These remarks by a senior government figure are completely inappropriate and unfair on the people of Sheffield.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to Mr Letwin, Rotherham MP Denis MacShane said: “This is pure snobbery unworthy of someone with your wealth and privileged upbringing.”
There is a precedent for a senior Tory travelling to a northern city to make an apology - former Conservative leader Michael Howard ordered Boris Johnson to make a personal apology in Liverpool 2004 after he accused Liverpudlians of being “hooked on grief”.