Quentin Letts in 2009
6 February 1963|
Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England
|Education||Haileybury and Imperial Service College|
|Occupation||Journalist, theatre critic|
Lois Rathbone (m. 1996)
Quentin Richard Stephen Letts (born 6 February 1963) is an English journalist and theatre critic, writing for The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and The Oldie, and previously for The Times.
The son of Richard Letts and Jocelyn Elizabeth (née Adami), he was born and raised in Cirencester and for a while attended Oakley Hall Preparatory School, which was run by his father. He boarded at The Elms School in Colwall on the Herefordshire side of the Malvern Hills. His education continued at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, then at Bellarmine College, Kentucky (now Bellarmine University), before going to Trinity College, Dublin, where he edited a number of publications including The Piranha, Trinity's satirical newspaper. He graduated with an MA degree in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. At Jesus College, Cambridge he gained a Diploma in Classical Archaeology.
Since 1987, Letts has written for several British newspapers. His first post was with the Peterborough diary column for The Daily Telegraph. For two years (1995–97), he was New York correspondent for The Times. He wrote a parliamentary sketch for The Daily Telegraph for four years until 2001.
Letts then joined the Daily Mail appointed by the newspaper's editor, Paul Dacre, to resuscitate the paper's own parliamentary sketches, a feature which Letts has said had remained dormant at the title since 1990. He was the first person to write the Mail's pseudonymous Clement Crabbe column, launched in 2006, and has also been the publication's theatre critic since 2004, again at Dacre's suggestion. A freelance since 1997, by mid-2006, he was contributing regularly to The News of the World and Horse & Hound magazine. According to Stephen Glover, he has supplied gossip to numerous diary columns. "Look, diaries are very much part of my output as a journalist" he told James Silver writing for The Guardian in 2006. "To me it's like a plumber mending taps. It's what I do. I send out two or three stories a day. They don't all get published, of course. It's like sending out carrier pigeons, some of them don't make it back". He lists his hobbies in Who's Who as "gossip" and "character defenestration".
In the print and online versions of the Daily Mail in 2016, Letts described the BBC journalist Andrew Marr as "Captain-Hop-Along, growling away on BBC One, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor". Marr is recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2013, and Letts later apologised for the remarks.
Letts was invited to present an edition of the BBC current affairs programme Panorama broadcast on 20 April 2009, which dealt with the growing criticism of the influence of health and safety on various aspects of British life. He has also been a regular guest on BBC programmes, such as Have I Got News For You and This Week (with Andrew Neil). He presents a programme on BBC Radio Four called What's the Point Of …?, in which he questions the purpose of various British institutions. A 2015 programme in the series, which mocked the science behind climate change, was not repeated after its first broadcast and withdrawn from the BBC iPlayer after the BBC Trust found it to be in "serious breach" of BBC rules on impartiality and accuracy. Letts told The Times: "It’s a bit Orwellian. There’s an amateurishness to their sinister attempts to control thought".
Letts has published several books including 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain and Bog-Standard Britain, all with his UK publisher Constable & Robinson. Brandon Robshaw in The Independent described the latter as being "a bog-standard rant about exactly those subjects one would expect a Daily Mail columnist to rant about" and "a waste of everyone's time". 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain has sold around 45,000 copies and was reviewed in The Spectator (a publication Letts writes for) as "an angry book, beautifully written". His 2015 novel The Speaker's Wife, about Parliament and the Church of England, was described as 'rollicking' by Labour politician Chris Bryant in The Guardian. Kate Saunders in The Times commented: "Frankly, I adored reading this, but for all the wrong reasons. It is absolutely dreadful from start to finish. And there is nothing funnier than a bad novel by a good writer".
His non-fiction book, Patronising Bastards: How The Elites Betrayed Britain, was published in October 2017 and is an attack on the British ruling elite. Interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he was asked why Paul Dacre, the long-serving editor of one of the best-selling newspapers in Britain (and one of Letts' employers), was absent from the book. Letts said: "He’s escaped somehow, I don’t know how...", adding: "I’m not a suicide bomber, for God’s sake". "Lett's put-downs", wrote Roger Lewis in The Times "are hysterical and take the libel laws to the brink".
In April 2018, as part of a review of the play The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, Letts suggested that Leo Wringer may have been cast "because he was black" and criticised the Royal Shakespeare Company's “clunking approach to politically correct casting". In response, in a joint statement, the RSC's artistic director Gregory Doran and its executive director, Catherine Mallyon, accused Letts of holding a "blatantly racist attitude" and criticised his “ugly and prejudiced commentary”.
Allegations of misogyny
Peter Wilby writing for The Guardian was of the opinion that an article by Letts about Harriet Harman was misogynistic. The same paper's theatre critic, Lyn Gardner, observed of a 2007 review by Letts of a stage adaptation for children of Looking for JJ: "I think that this is the first time I've heard of a theatre critic arguing for censorship and demanding that a play should be removed from the stage"; the Daily Mail had been invoked "negatively" in the production.
Quentin Letts was accused of further misogyny in a debate with Polly Toynbee on Radio 4 Today, in which he said of Toynbee, "I wish I could pin her to the ground and tickle her under the armpits to make you smile, my dear." Letts was later questioned on these comments by comedian Jo Brand, who was hosting an all-male panel on Have I Got News For You which was aired in 2017 following a House of Commons sexual harassment scandal. Brand's rebuke of the panelists' alleged trivialising of the subject received widespread support on social media, and received the most Ofcom complaints for the two weeks it was shown.
- Crow, Rachel (22 February 2010). "Political sketch writer Quentin Letts on life in London and How Caple, Herefordshire". Herefordshire Life. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010.
- Cooke, Rachel (18 October 2009). "Quentin Letts: Is this Britain's most opinionated man". The Observer. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
- Silver, James (19 June 2006). "The Commons touch". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- "Mail columnist Letts apologises for mocking Marr's disability". BBC News. 9 May 2016.
- Adam Sherwin. "Radio 4 programme criticising Met Office over global warming was 'serious breach' of BBC impartiality rules". The Independent. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- Webster, Ben (5 December 2015). "Radio 4 show on climate 'broke rules'". The Times. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- Robshaw, Brandon (15 May 2010). "Bog-Standard Britain, By Quentin Letts". The Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- Bryant, Chris (26 November 2015). "The Speaker's Wife by Quentin Letts review – 'a love song to the grand old Church of England'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- Saunders, Kate (14 November 2015). "Fiction in short: The Speaker's Wife". The Times. Retrieved 5 March 2018. (subscription required)
- Gray, Jasmin (12 October 2018). "Quentin Letts Takes Aim At 'La-Di-Da' Elitists In New Book... But Mysteriously Leaves Out Boss Paul Dacre". HuffPost. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- Lewis, Roger (18 November 2017). "Review: Patronising Bastards: How the Elites Betrayed Britain by Quentin Letts". The Times. Retrieved 5 March 2018. (subscription required)
- Siddique, Haroon (8 April 2018). "Daily Mail's Quentin Letts accused of 'racist attitude' in theatre review". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "QUENTIN LETTS reviews The Fantastic Follies Of Mrs Rich". Mail Online. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "On the press: Peter Wilby on Harriet Harman's election as Labour's deputy leader". The Guardian. London, UK. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
- Lyn Gardner (26 October 2007). "Children's theatre must grow up". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
- Gray, Jasmin (12 October 2017). "Quentin Letts Reveals Why He Left Paul Dacre From List Of 'People Who Love Telling Us What To Do'". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "Jo Brand silences all-male Have I Got News For You panel over House of Commons sexual harassment comments". The Telegraph. 4 November 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Agerholm, Harriet (4 November 2017). "Jo Brand immediately shuts down all-male panel by explaining why sexual harassment isn't funny". The Independent. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Ruddick, Graham (16 November 2017). "Have I Got News for You where Jo Brand rebuked all-male panel tops complaints". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "Data". doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U41642 (inactive 2018-06-29).
- May, Philippa (23 October 2008). "Quentin lets rip in new book". The Hereford Times. Retrieved 31 August 2010.