Under-fire Cameron admits close relative suffers heroin addiction

The 39-year-old favourite in the Tory leadership race, who has been dogged by questions about whether he has used soft or hard drugs, also came under further pressure yesterday to clear the air about any personal experiences with drugs. David Davis, his nearest rival in the Tory race, raised the stakes by saying that he did not believe someone who had taken Class A drugs should become the party's leader or Prime Minister. "It's a breach of the law so if it was recent, the answer would be no," he told tonight's Morgan and Platell programme on Channel 4.

Mr Davis added that politicians should give a straight answer to straight questions. "The whole idea of drugs makes me nervous," he said. "Because, well, I just don't like the idea of taking drugs. I never have and I don't like it."

Mr Cameron has refused to confirm or deny that he used soft drugs as a student but said last weekend: "I did lots of things before I came into politics that I shouldn't have done."

Supporters accused his rivals in the leadership election of "dirty tricks" by encouraging the media to harry him over the issue. They claimed that one senior right-wing MP had said: "We are going to stuff him on drugs."

On Monday, Mr Cameron told sixth-form students: "I have seen people close to me have a very difficult time and wreck their lives through drugs." Yesterday Mr Cameron issued a statement after a newspaper reported that a member of his family was being treated for heroin addiction. The London Evening Standard reported that his relative was undergoing treatment at a clinic in South Africa after attempts at therapy and rehabilitation in Britain failed.

Mr Cameron said the individual had now been through rehabilitation and that he was "incredibly proud" of the way the person had come through their problems.

"Someone very close in my family has had a dreadful problem with drugs," he said. "They have come through it, been through rehabilitation, and I'm incredibly proud of them. Their life has nothing to do with my candidature for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Many families will have had a similar experience, and they and I know full well the damage drugs can do. I hope now that this person can be left alone. I won't comment further on this story."

The unlikely issue of drugs has moved to the centre of the Tory leadership election and was raised at two hustings meetings addressed by the four candidates this week. With the first ballot of Tory MPs taking place next Tuesday, senior Tories believe that any further controversy could undermine Mr Cameron's prospects. "It's the one thing that could cost him the prize," one said.

But the Cameron camp is optimistic that he will survive the storm, and win the backing of more than 40 MPs in Tuesday's ballot. The Davis camp claims the backing of 67, Kenneth Clarke 23 and Liam Fox 20.

The candidate who comes bottom on Tuesday will be eliminated. Another will go in the second round on Thursday. The two remaining contenders then go into a ballot of the party's 300,000 members.

Many Tory MPs believe the run-off will be between Mr Davis, the early front-runner, and Mr Cameron. But the Clarke and Fox camps insist the race is still wide open. There are growing fears among his supporters that Mr Clarke will fail in his third attempt to become Tory leader because he risks being eclipsed by Mr Cameron as the main standard-bearer of party moderates.

Yesterday the 65-year-old former chancellor mounted a direct attack on Mr Cameron's relative lack of experience. He said: "He hasn't been in national politics. He's been in the House of Commons for four years but he's never actually played any role in national politics."

Mr Clarke added: "One speech and a fortnight's publicity and he's up there as a prime minister candidate. There are quite a few weeks to go yet so people will almost certainly reflect on this coming from nowhere."

But Keith Hellawell, the Government's former drugs tsar, said Mr Cameron should come clean about his past. "It matters because now the public is interested in knowing whether this man was involved in drugs in the past," he said.

Yesterday Mr Davis promised that the Tories would be "back in business" in the cities if he wins the leadership. Speaking in Bradford, he said: "The modern Conservative Party doesn't exist to protect privilege or preside over the status quo. Our mission is to change Britain and improve lives - and we will begin in the cities, where the hope of change has been absent for too long."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living