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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 February 2007, 19:25 GMT
Allies back Cameron drug stance
David Cameron
Mr Cameron said he had done things he should not have done

Political allies have rallied round Conservative leader David Cameron after he refused to deny claims he smoked cannabis 25 years ago at Eton College.

Mr Cameron, 40, admitted there were things in his past which he regretted, but insisted politicians were entitled to a "private past".

A number of Tory frontbenchers agreed, including former leader William Hague who said his view of him was unchanged.

The claim is made in a book serialised in the Independent on Sunday.

The biography - Cameron, The Rise Of The New Conservative, by James Hanning and Francis Elliott - will also be serialised in the Mail on Sunday next month.


Both papers report that school authorities called the police to investigate drug use among pupils.

Because Mr Cameron, then aged 15, had smoked cannabis and not sold it, he avoided being expelled like several other boys, the book alleges.

Cannabis was classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as a Class B drug
Under 18s could be arrested and given a formal warning for possession
Up to 5 years in jail for possession
Up to 14 years in jail for supplying or dealing

Instead, he was fined, grounded for two weeks and given the school's traditional punishment of a "Georgic" - copying out hundreds of lines of Latin poetry, according to the book.

The claims appear on the front page of a number of Sunday newspapers.

Speaking outside his home on Sunday morning, Mr Cameron said: "Like many people I did things when I was young that I should not have done, and that I regret.

"But I do believe that politicians are entitled to a past that is private, and that remains private, so I won't be making any commentary on what is in the newspapers today."

A number of Tory frontbenchers have spoken publicly to defend Mr Cameron and to support his refusal to speak about his private life before politics.

On 29 January 2004, cannabis was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in the UK
Under 18s can be arrested and given a formal warning
Up to 2 years in jail for possession
Up to 14 years in jail for supplying or dealing
Police are more likely to confiscate the drug and give a warning, rather than arrest a person for possession

Mr Hague, shadow foreign secretary, said: "I am enormously impressed with him and this makes no difference to my view of him or, I think, the view of most people in the country.

"He has always been very clear that your life before you went into politics is a private life and it should be possible to have that as a private life and he has always been absolutely consistent about that."

One of Mr Cameron's closest allies, the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, said voters were unlikely to be interested in the claims.

"What they want to know is: what's David Cameron got to say about health, education, law and order, and so on - and does he have a better vision of the country than Gordon Brown," he said.

"So I suspect those are going to be the issues at the election, not what he did 25 years ago."

Other senior politicians to publicly support his stance included Theresa May, shadow leader of the Commons, and Oliver Letwin, chairman of the Conservatives' policy review.

I really don't think someone getting told off while a schoolboy is particularly newsworthy
Jason Hood, Nottingham

Home Secretary John Reid also appeared to agree that politicians were entitled to a private life before being elected to office.

"I think this is one of those 'so what' moments," he told the BBC's Politics Show.

However former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit urged Mr Cameron to come clean about any drug use, in order to put the story behind him.

"My advice to him now would be, 'Get it out of the way, get it over with and it will be a seven-day wonder. If you don't, people will keep turning up with another expose'," he told BBC News 24.

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