When the news of David Cameron smoking cannabis at Eton broke yesterday evening I decided it was not much of a story and only mentioned it within another thread (about today’s Sunday Times opinion poll). I questioned my judgment this morning as I scanned the front pages at my local newsagent. The Mail on Sunday, Independent on Sunday, Observer and Sunday Times all lead with the story. My guess, however, is that the majority of voters will shrug their shoulders and treat the ‘revelation’ as seriously as Tory members treated similar stories during the 2005 leadership contest.
My only concern in this business is that society does not conclude that drug use does not matter. My concern started to grow last night when one ConservativeHome visitor suggested that we somehow celebrate the news:
"This is FANTASTIC news! Gordon Brown admitted that he never took drugs – Cameron did! Great news for those of us trying to win over our generation (18-30) I mean who the hell apart from a few odd balls (Brown and Widdecombe) has never smoked dope, taken an ecstasy tablet or (God forbid) snorted a line of coke? BREAKING NEWS: David Cameron is officially a member of the Human Race!"
For the second time this weekend I feel the need to highlight an article by Peter Oborne (the first time was here). In a piece for the Mail on Sunday (not online) he highlights some of the dangers of society taking a relaxed view of cannabis. Cannabis is very different today from that which David Cameron smoked nearly two decades ago. Its potency is anything from five to ten times greater because of various forms of genetic engineering. Peter Oborne refers to sons of friends who have become apathetic, morose and uninterested in life as they have become cannabis users. More deadly is the link between cannabis use and mental health problems. Leading mental health charities have rightly attacked the Labour Government for downgrading the legal status of cannabis five years ago. Mr Oborne’s conclusion:
"It is essential that the Tory leader must say that he is ashamed of what he did. He must stress that there were many lives destroyed by cannabis even when he was a boy. But above all he must repeat the little-understood fact that cannabis has changed so much that it is effectively a different drug today. He should also state that – whatever he did as a young man – his Party believes that the pro-drug lobby is mistaken. Finally, he must pledge that an incoming Tory government will reverse Blunkett’s mistake – and reclassify cannabis as a very dangerous drug indeed."
So long as David Davis is Shadow Home Secretary the party is unlikely to relax its position on drugs. As part of his December 2005 deal to stay in post, Mr Cameron agreed to shelve any idea of downgrading the legal status of ecstasy.
10.30am update from PA: "Tory leader David Cameron today admitted he had done things in his past he "should not have done and regretted" over allegations he smoked cannabis as a schoolboy at Eton. He refused to confirm the allegations, published in a new autobiography, that he was disciplined for smoking the drug at the prestigious private school. Speaking from his constituency home in Dean, Oxfordshire, he said: "I do believe that politicians are entitled to a past that is private and remains private."