The troubles were widely blamed on a combustible combination of high unemployment, slum housing, poor education and an atmosphere of bitter distrust between many young black people and the police.
In one document among the papers released by the National Archives, home secretary Douglas Hurd pointed to the underlying social and economic problems in the areas which had a “specific ethnic (notably black) dimension”.
“It had nothing to do with moral bankruptcy and everything to do with social decay and the appalling relations between black youths and the police,” he said.“Letwin’s statement is an indication of how the powerful can be so utterly, utterly out of touch with what’s going on.” The riots which erupted in autumn 1985 were among the worst disturbances to hit mainland Britain in recent times.They included serious unrest in the Handsworth area of Birmingham and Brixton, south London, as well as the Broadwater Farm riot where Pc Keith Blakelock, from Sunderland, was stabbed to death.David Cameron’s policy chief Oliver Letwin has apologised “unreservedly” for any offence he caused for “racist” remarks he made in the wake of the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots.Files released by the National Archives in Kew, south-west London, show that Mr Letwin - then an adviser in Margaret Thatcher’s No 10 policy unit - blamed “bad moral attitudes” for a series of major disturbances which broke out across a series of mainly black inner city areas.
In an outspoken memorandum to the prime minister, he poured scorn on claims that the unrest was the product of urban deprivation, saying white communities had endured such conditions for decades without rioting.
He also dismissed proposals by ministers to foster a new class of black entrepreneurs, saying they would simply set up in the “disco and drug trade”.
In a statement, Mr Letwin - now a minister in the Cabinet Office - said: “I want to make clear that some parts of a private memo I wrote nearly 30 years ago were both badly worded and wrong.
“I apologise unreservedly for any offence these comments have caused and wish to make clear that none was intended.” His remarks were strongly condemned by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who said he must explain his comments.
“Oliver Letwin’s comments are evidence of an ignorant and deeply racist view of the world.
He obviously cannot justify his opinions but he must explain himself and apologise without delay,” he said.