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Friday, October 14, 2005 

Kids, say no to drugs. You might become a politician.

The moralistic witch-hunt accelerates again as another target starts to come into view. ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM there's Kate Moss! VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM there's Boy George! WRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRHH there's David Cameron!

David Cameron looks increasingly likely to become the next leader of the Conservative party. Young, fresh, charismatic, charming and there is very little dirt which can be dug up on him. Or is there? Well, it seems as if the Daily Mail is trying to find filth with all its might:
David Cameron's leadership election team fear that Associated Newspapers is out to destroy his campaign and determined to dig up dirt on him, his wider family and his supporters, mainly concerning allegations of cocaine taking.

Other campaign teams are predicting that Associated Newspapers, especially the Mail on Sunday, will damage Mr Cameron this weekend. Some appear to be close to abandoning hope of finding another means of preventing Mr Cameron reaching the runoff between two candidates among the membership. The first ballot of MPs is next Tuesday, with the second and final round next Thursday.

And as if to prove this morning's Guardian report:

On Friday, The London Evening Standard revealed Mr Cameron had been helping a relative who was receiving treatment for heroin addiction.

In a statement, Mr Cameron said: "Someone very close in my family has had a dreadful problem with drugs.

"They have come through it, been through rehabilitation, and I'm incredibly proud of them.

"Their life has nothing to do with my candidature for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Many families will have had a similar experience, and they and I know full well the damage drugs can do.

"I hope now that this person can be left alone. I won't comment further on this story."

The London Evening Standard is of course owned by Associated Newspapers. It's pretty sad that in searching for something to beat Cameron with that they've plunged into the depths of revealing that a relative of his has a problem with heroin, a very private and distressing matter.

Cameron is by no means someone who I would support at a general election. Brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth, he attended Eton and then Oxford. He went on to join a PR firm, and has recently left a place on the board of a company which operates a number of pub franchises. He became an MP at the 2001 election, meaning he only has 4 years experience. Compare that to Tony Blair, who at least became Labour leader in 1994, 11 years after he first entered parliament.

Despite all that, Cameron is now the man who could reposition the Tories and help to push Labour back to the left. He holds Tory orthodoxy on numerous points, as he demonstrated on last night's Question Time, including on prisons and economics. He lacks the pro-Europeanism of Kenneth Clarke. Instead of focusing on Conservative rhetoric, he makes it clear that he supports Labour's public spending plans. Instead of asking the Thatcherite and increasingly New Labourite question, how can we involve the private sector in this, he seems to have realised that there is much to be gained from targeting the less well-off and focusing on those with special needs. Rather different to the purile Tory campaign in the May elections. If the Tories decide to become a party of the centre again, abandoning its leap to the far-right after the recklessness of Thatcher, how will Labour respond? Will it keep with its drift further and further towards the right? That seems unlikely. Under Brown, the hope has to be that the party will push back towards its roots. With the help of David Cameron, that is something that may well become reality.

Back to the burning issue. Does it matter that David Cameron may well have indulged in substances of an illegal nature? As long as he is not taking them now, and is clean of them, free from hypocrisy if he is tough on drugs policy, then no, it does not matter one jot. According to the BBC's unfortunately named Nick Assinder, he has definitely sampled the green leaf. What some of the Tory party and the tabloids seem more interested in is whether he has dabbled with white powder, more so since the fake moral furore over Kate Moss. This seems to ignore some rather unpleasant truths that the so-called moralists of this nation are pretending not to remember. It was only a couple of years ago that Prince Harry was caught smoking cannabis, a person who is third in line to the throne, and another ex-Etonian. No one suggested that he shouldn't be King eventually. George Bush has a well known past as a consumer of vast quantities of alcohol, and there's numerous allegations that he was always a coke-fiend. Certainly didn't affect him becoming President.

This obsession with what politicians have done in the past is ridiculous. David Cameron was entitled to a private life before he became one, as we all are. Who cares if he snorted cocaine while at university? How many have gone to college and not tried an illegal drug at least once? I'm happy to admit that I've tried illegal drugs, although not Class A ones. Ken Clarke is director of British American Tobacco, a company which has admitted to smuggling its own products in Columbia, and which flogs fags to developing countries by the shipload. Isn't that rather more unpleasant than what David Cameron might have done, legal or not?

I think the main problem with Associated Newspapers is they fear that their agenda is slipping away. They detest Ken Clarke for his Europhilia, and Tony Blair for reasons unknown, despite his listening to their every whim. It comes as no surprise that they would therefore try to smear David Cameron also. He threatens their values of old Thatcherism, and of progress. They crave power, yet if David Davis or Liam Fox wins the Tory leadership battle, the Tory party is doomed to failure. Can Paul Dacre or Lord Rothermere not see that? Perhaps David Cameron is something they realise they should be: young, polite, willing to see other sides of the argument and to others, all qualities he displayed to my surprise on Question Time. His good humour when faced with question on drugs and other deserved attacks on the Conservative party was a revelation. It was how you would like Tony Blair to be. You still dislike most of what he stands for, but at least you know he's a decent person at heart. I get the feeling that is what is stirring the hatred and bitterness. What a shame that the heartland Tory newspapers and MPs cannot see a good thing when they have it. It will only lead to Labour consolidating its grips on this country, and as I said yesterday, the governing party is just getting worse and worse.

To counter all the bad press, David Cameron should bite the bullet and admit what he has taken in the pass. It sets a bad precedent, but it should be done to show that he is being honest with the public. It will stops all the rumours, and then the Tory leadership race can continue in earnest. It may even help him win the support of grassroot Tory activists. Then we can get on with the more important issues of British politics, namely having an opposition that isn't opportunist and is willing to take on Labour on its most destructive and liberty-reducing policies. If the Tories aren't for keeping our freedom as so-called Conservatives, what are they for?

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