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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 14:25 GMT
Hoodie pic 'proves Cameron point'
A youth gestures at David Cameron during a trip to the Benchill area of Wythenshawe , Manchester
The picture was splashed over Friday's front pages

A hooded teenager pictured making a gun gesture behind David Cameron proves the Tory leader's point about "anti-social behaviour", his spokesman said.

The photo has been splashed on front pages, with the Daily Mail saying: "Do you still want to hug a hoodie, Dave?"

But Mr Cameron's spokesman said the picture "perfectly illustrates the problems David was talking about".

The youth, 17-year-old Ryan Florence, is electronically tagged after being in a young offenders' institution.

Florence, who served four months for burglary and street robbery, told the BBC the gesture was just "messing about".

"He says he's coming round to stop the crime and that, but what's he doing? He's not stopping us, is he?," he said.

He has never said hug a hoodie
Spokesman for David Cameron
He has said he is in a gang called Benchill Mad Dogs and regularly smokes cannabis and takes cocaine.

He told the BBC: "Drugs are everywhere here. I smoke weed every day and all my friends do as well. There's nothing wrong with it as long as you don't get caught."

Mr Cameron, who recently advised people against using drugs, following newspaper allegations that he smoked cannabis as a schoolboy at Eton, was visiting a community centre on one of the most deprived estates in Manchester.

'More love'

His spokesman said he had not spoken to Mr Florence, but was aware the picture had been taken.

"He has never said hug a hoodie. But this picture illustrates precisely the sort of problems of anti-social behaviour and the need for positive role models that David was talking about."

In July, Mr Cameron was mocked by Labour after giving a speech saying young people needed "a lot more love" to avoid a life of crime.

Other youths on the Benchill estate
A few teenagers played up to the camera during the visit

He said teenagers who hide under hooded tops are trying to "blend in" rather than appear threatening - but his critics dubbed it his "hug a hoodie" speech.

On Thursday's trip to the Benchill area of Manchester, Mr Cameron visited the United Estates of Wythenshawe (UWE) centre, an award-winning community project run by former bouncers.

He said more money should be given to community workers - not bureaucrats - who make a "real difference" to people's lives. He also talked about absentee fathers, as well as getting to the "roots of crime".

Greg Davis, who helps run the UWE, said had been thinking about standing as an independent local councillor, but was so impressed with Mr Cameron he is now considering running for the Conservatives.

There was always going to be some kind of catcall or wolf whistle - as it happens, that is the gesture of the moment
Greg Davis
UWE centre

He told the BBC the Tory leader was on a short walk around the block at the end of his visit, when they passed a few youths from the estate.

"As we took about five or six steps, one of them did a gun gesture," he said.

"I would have been more surprised if he had not done that," he said.

"There was always going to be some kind of catcall or wolf whistle - as it happens, that is the gesture of the moment."

Mr Davis said he turned round to look at Mr Florence, who immediately put his hand down, out of respect for someone from the estate "which, funnily enough, is what David Cameron is trying to get across".

"I love that picture," he said, saying it showed the "stark contrast" between the world of public school-educated Mr Cameron, and that of a state school teenager on an inner city estate.

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