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Top adviser to British PM apologizes for 30-year-old racist comments

A top adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron has made an apology for racist comments he made three decades ago. The memo containing the remarks has just been released to the public.

Conservative Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin said on Wednesday that comments he had made in a memo to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1985 during race-related riots in north London were "badly worded and wrong."

"I apologize unreservedly for any offense these comments have caused and wish to make clear that none was intended," he said.

In the memo, Letwin, who at the time was an influential adviser to Thatcher, blamed "bad moral attitudes" in the black community for the rioting. The paper was co-written with fellow a Tory, Hartley Booth, who is now retired from politics.

The authors also rejected suggestions that inadequate housing or feelings of alienation on the part of blacks in England could have fueled the riots, deriding proposals for state investment in new homes and work opportunities.

"So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve the inner cities will founder," the memo said, also claiming that such investment would end up in the disco and drug trade.

Diane Abbott, a member of parliament from the opposition Labour Party, has taken Letwin to task for his stated opinion on Britain's black community.

Deadly riots

The memo was released by the National Archives under a rule requiring government documents to be made accessible to the public after 30 years.

Großbritannien Nationalarchiv Dokumente - Broadwater Farm

Other memos related to the riots have also been released

Letwin made the remarks following the so-called Broadwater Farm riot, which broke out after a black resident, Cynthia Jarrett, suffered heart failure and died when police officers entered her home searching for stolen property.

Police officer Keith Blakelock was stabbed to death in the ensuing violence, which highlighted the poor relations between Britain's poor black community and the police force.

Letwin's advice to the government helped form its response to the race violence in several major British cities at the time.

He is currently in charge of the oversight of the Cabinet Office, in addition to being the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

tj/msh (Reuters, AP)