Yes, I Took Drugs, Says Cameron


420 Staff
Independent on Sunday journalists reveal how Tory leader broke the law

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has admitted taking drugs when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy at Eton, The Independent on Sunday can reveal today.

The disclosures that Mr Cameron has smoked cannabis came in a new biography serialised in today's paper. It is expected to mark a watershed in the debate about drugs in Britain, making him the first party leader and prospective British prime minister to confess to breaking the law over its use. The disclosure - in a biography written by Independent on Sunday journalists Francis Elliott and James Hanning - is conclusive evidence of Mr Cameron's drugs past.

As a schoolboy, Mr Cameron owned up to teachers at Eton after being named by a fellow pupil as a cannabis user, and was disciplined by the school. He has maintained a complete silence on his drugs history since winning the Tory leadership contest, insisting that his life before entering politics was private.

There were also fears that right-wing elements in the party would be horrified that he had used drugs, a "zero tolerance" issue for many Conservatives.

But, significantly, last night his office did not deny that Mr Cameron had been caught smoking cannabis weeks before his O-level exams and was punished for the offence.

The story emerged during research for Cameron: The Rise of the New Conservative. The book reveals that the young Cameron was fortunate not to have been among those expelled in a purge of drug-takers at Eton in 1982. The school called in the police to oversee the clampdown after rumours that a group of pupils was using drugs. But teachers were shocked by the scale of drug-taking that they uncovered.

"They realised the numbers were much greater than they thought," claimed one former pupil. "They couldn't rusticate everybody." While, in theory at least, the "hard nuts" were thrown out, others got milder punishments.The young David Cameron was called before the headmaster. He was not thrown out because he had only smoked and not sold the drugs, but was fined, gated ( refused all leave ) and made to copy out lines of Virgil in Latin. Asked to reveal the names of other boys involved, he did not do so.

At the start of the investigation, seven other pupils had been expelled."They called in more [pupils] the next day, and the day after . A couple of the guys were going to Slough to buy the stuff, but it wasn't as if there was real dealing going on in the school. We were heavily leaned on to give names."

Eric Anderson ( now Sir Eric, and provost of Eton, who also taught Tony Blair at Fettes ), says he does not recall Mr Cameron's involvement but remembers having to deal with drugtakers when at Eton. "We would have said, 'Let's get the ringleaders', and if there were others involved, we would have scared them off from doing it again. We're dealing with young boys, and young boys sometimes do silly things."

After his Eton "bust", Mr Cameron appears to have largely abstained from drug use, although a friend recalls him having "occasionally a joint or something" while a student at Oxford. By the time that he was working at the Conservative Party's headquarters in the early 1990s Cameron was refusing joints.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron last night declined to comment on the Eton cannabis incident, but did not deny it had occurred.

Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Website: The Independent
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