OPINION: Cameron's past may haunt him yet

The consensus among many commentators appeared to be 'so what?' to last Sunday's allegations that Tory leader David Cameron had smoked cannabis at Eton.

Even better news for the Tory PR machine was that some media, including the BBC’s Today programme, ignored the claims.

Never can the ‘chattering classes’ have got it so wrong. Over on GMTV – where they are much more in touch with what real people think – an interview with an articulate woman from Mothers Against Drugs would have had Tory aides suddenly in meltdown mode.

The reality, of course, is that the majority of people haven’t taken drugs and disapprove of those who do.

Cameron certainly isn’t stupid and he knows just how damaging talk of any drug-taking is. That is why he took weeks to work out his PR line.

He was very wise to rule out the ‘I didn’t inhale’ Clinton approach, but it’s surprising that his stance is one of refusing to talk about ‘past indiscretions’.

Initially this seems clever because it stops journalists from asking embarrassing ‘follow-up’ questions that would inevitably move the story on and provide even more damaging copy.

But if he only smoked dope, why not admit it? He could say it was stupid and commit himself to being tough on drugs. This is the obvious and sensible strategy. But the fact he hasn’t adopted it suggests there must be a good reason. He must know that the current line makes him look slippery and having something to hide.

The Westminster rumour mill is now in full swing and there is much mention of the ‘c’ word – and I’m not talking about the four-lettered one. If Cameron is linked to cocaine – and there is no evidence to suggest that he is – then he will certainly be in trouble. This is where his handlers think his ‘drugs line’ is clever because it will work for any hard-drug allegations, too. We’ll see.

It was not just last weekend’s claims that were damaging for Cameron, though. He has spent much time telling us that he is just an ordinary bloke, so the ‘Bullingdon’ drinking club pictures were most unfortunate. Here he looks like a Hooray Henry. They say that pictures can be more damaging than words, and this case certainly proves the point.

Gordon Brown won’t let Cameron off lightly either. Everyone knows the Chancellor has never taken drugs, so watch out for a ‘zero tolerance’ speech soon. Then we will see how damaging Cameron’s ‘past indiscretions’ really are.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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