Former Conservative cabinet minister Oliver Letwin has provoked outrage online after saying global networks could be brought down by “some autistic person or some strange youth,” all while touting his new book on live radio.
Letwin, who was a Tory MP from 1997 to 2019, made the controversial remarks during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday.
While explaining the premise of his book, ‘Apocalypse How?’, which is set in 2037, Letwin suggested that the world was moving towards becoming dependent on “one network” which could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks – or from other particular individuals.
[Like] some autistic person or some strange youth sitting in some place in the world who is connected to our network by the internet, who gets in and does something.
His comments enraged many on Twitter who accused him of perpetuating myths about those with autism. One listener angrily tweeted: “His ignorant misunderstanding of people living with autism is as breathtaking as it is offensive.” Another remarked: “WTF” in disbelief.
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Others focused on his apparent high standing with pro-remainers, with one person raging: “People forget their Remain hero is in fact a f**king Tory disgrace.”
There were those with first-hand experience of living with someone with autism who took particular issue with Letwin’s seemingly offensive remarks and who also slammed the BBC for failing to “call him out on it.”
A parent tweeted: “My son has Asperger’s. He’s a decent, hard working, honest, kind young man. Fuming re Oliver Letwin’s comments.” Some also cheekily suggested that Letwin’s publicist may not be too happy with his radio “performance.”
Oliver Letwin’s publicist: pic.twitter.com/Q5bMfLFFN4
— Sathnam Sanghera (@Sathnam) March 4, 2020
Letwin, who was a constant thorn in the UK government’s side when it came to Brexit and his pro-EU stance – so much so that PM Boris Johnson ended up expelling him and others from the party for defying the whip on a critical vote – did not stand for re-election in the snap poll in December.
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