Election '97 : Self denies taking drugs in toilet on Major's jet

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The Independent Online
Will Self, the novelist and self-confessed former heroin addict, yesterday denied he took heroin on John Major's election campaign aircraft and said he was disappointed the claims were distracting people from the "real issues" of the election.

Self had been assigned to write an irreverent sketch on the Prime Minister's campaign by the Observer and was a passenger on the jet last Thursday when he allegedly hid in the toilet to smoke or inject the drug.

Will Hutton, the editor of the Observer, sacked him after he refused to deny the claims, which were splashed across the front pages of yesterday's newspapers. Some Observer journalists are understood to be believe Self was falsely accused.

The case against Self appears to be largely based on his appearance after leaving the toilet in the flight. "It was just the way he was behaving and the way he looked compared to 10 minutes earlier," said a journalist who travelled with Self.

A member of the Tory campaign team is understood to have a friend who was addicted to heroin. This helped them to spot "tell-tale" signs. The Tory worker alerted Brian Mawhinney, the party chairman. On Friday, Simon Walters, political editor of the Sunday Express, was travelling with the Prime Minister and heard about the allegations. He prepared a story for the Sunday edition which was never used.

Self has issued a statement through Davenport Lyons, his solicitors: "Whilst he denies that he took drugs on the Prime Minister's campaign plane, he does not contest the decision that he should no longer remain at the Observer. Will Self feels that the unsubstantiated allegations made against him should not be allowed to receive greater currency than they deserve, or detract from the real issues in the election campaign."

The statement noted that "although these alleged events took place more than a week ago our client has not been contacted by the police".

Before leaving Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, the Prime Minister was asked about the allegations involving Self. "I have never met him, I know nothing about him. It's obviously a personal tragedy for him," he said.

Suzanne Moore, Page 19