Cameron refuses to deny he smoked marijuana

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Indy Politics

David Cameron, Britain's main opposition leader, on Sunday refused to deny newspaper reports claiming he had smoked marijuana as a teenager, saying that politicians are entitled to a private past.

During a brief statement to reporters outside his home, the Conservative party leader said that while he understood the interest in his past, he was entitled to keep some things to himself.

"I'm not issuing denials," Cameron said. "Today, I'm a member of Parliament, I'm a politician, I'm putting myself forward to be prime minister and you are perfectly entitled to follow me around, to poke cameras up my nose to have a good look at me ... but I do think you're entitled to a private past and that's a principle I'm going to stand by.

"Like many people, I did things when I was young that I shouldn't have done and that I regret," Cameron said. "But I do believe that politicians are entitled to a past that is private and that remains private, and so I won't be making any commentary on what's in the newspapers."

Cameron then brought coffee to the journalists standing outside his home before heading to church.

Many Sunday newspapers carried the story that Cameron had allegedly smoked marijuana while a pupil at the prestigious Eton private school. He was confined to the school's grounds for two weeks at the age of 15 after he admitted smoking the drug, the Independent on Sunday and Mail on Sunday reported.

The allegations are contained in an unauthorized biography by authors Francis Elliott and James Hanning called "Cameron: The Rise Of The New Conservative." It is to be published in April, the newspapers reported.

Cameron has previously declined to answer questions about whether he has used drugs. During his leadership campaign in 2005, he was repeatedly asked whether he had used recreational drugs before he was elected as a lawmaker in 2001.

The youthful lawmaker, who has revived his party's fortunes since he was appointed leader in December 2005, will face Prime Minister Tony Blair's successor in a national election expected in 2009. Blair has said he will leave office before September; Treasury chief Gordon Brown is widely expected to replace the leader.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton famously acknowledged in 1992 that he had smoked marijuana, but said he had not inhaled.

Dozens of British lawmakers have said they experimented with the drug in their youth, including — before her death — former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam.

"Unlike President Clinton, I did inhale," Mowlam told reporters in 2000.

In January, Cameron said in a video podcast he advocated a policy of asking former drug users to recount their experiences to young people.

Asked about his attitude toward marijuana, Cameron said: "I don't believe it should be legalized. I think it's right that it is still a criminalized drug."