Has David Cameron ever taken cocaine?
That was the question he was asked in the House of Commons on Wednesday by Ed Balls. It was his own fault, really, a predictable response to his heavy-handed jokes about Labour’s relationship with Druggie of the Week Paul Flowers.
He didn’t give an answer – and so, surely, did give an answer. If someone’s asked whether they’ve taken drugs and they don’t say no, immediately and unequivocally, then that’s it as far as I’m concerned. But does it matter if he did or not? Not remotely.
Before he became Tory leader, he was asked the question. He replied, “I did lots of things before I came into politics which I shouldn't have done. We all did.” And he didn’t deny the allegations in the 2007 book by Francis Elliott and James Hanning, Cameron, The Rise Of The New Conservative, that he was caught smoking dope at Eton and was punished by having to write out hundreds of lines in Latin.
As for anything stronger, he was a young adult in the 1980s. He was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club, epicentre of bad behaviour at Oxford. He spent seven years working in media PR. I mean, come on.
I was a student in the 1970s, and an, ahem, bright young thing in the ’80s. Virtually everyone I know around my age took drugs back in the day. Not all the time; usually at parties. It was what you did. I am now, like my friends, a solid, upstanding citizen, much like Mr Cameron, if without his responsibilities and pay packet, and so are my friends.
So should we be concerned whether the Prime Minister took drugs years ago? Of course not. If he was still snorting coke now, I’d worry. Coke makes everything seem brilliant. Or smoking dope, which makes you cease to care whether everything’s brilliant or not. But if he did, it’s in the past and hasn’t the slightest relevance to today.
Barack Obama took drugs – Michelle told an interviewer he gave them up when his father died and he realised he could do more with his life. George W Bush refused to say whether he took drugs, though he did say, in a taped conversation with a friend, “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana question. You know why? ’Cause I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.” Bill Clinton definitely took drugs, and no one believed him when he said he didn’t inhale.
So that’s the last three presidents of the United States. Mr Cameron is clearly in good company. From party animals to leaders of the free world is not such a leap. And for Ed Balls to try to discombobulate the PM by exploring possible past indiscretions is faintly ridiculous.
How many of the present Parliamentary Labour Party took drugs in their youth? More than a few, I bet. Somebody in the Commons should ask Ed Balls whether he ever took drugs – just one line, just one toke, at a party with his mates – and see if he sidesteps the question. Whatever one thinks of Mr Cameron as Prime Minister, his past is just that. The past.