Pubdate: Sun, 16 Oct 2005
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Robert Winnett and Andrew Porter


DAVID DAVIS'S key financial backer, Lord Kalms, has intensified the pressure
on David Cameron in the Tory leadership race by insisting that he should
declare publicly whether he has taken drugs.

Kalms, the Tory party donor and founder of the Dixons store chain, brushed
aside attempts by Cameron to close down the controversy, saying: "David
Cameron must state the facts.

"A small peccadillo by a student shouldn't ruin a man's career, absolutely.
But the hard drugs. I think if it's a serious hard drug then it's a
different matter entirely."

Cameron, who admitted on Friday that a "very close" family member had had a
serious drug problem, maintains he should not have to answer questions on
whether he has ever taken drugs.

When asked on BBC1's Question Time last week if he had taken class A drugs,
he replied: "I'm allowed to have had a private life before politics, in
which we make mistakes and we do things we should not - and we are all human
and we err and we stray."

Kalms said it was "fairly obvious" why Cameron was stalling. He added: "It
is quite clear that this is an issue that is in the public domain. Those who
have got a vote will need to have the background clearly stated."

But an opinion poll last night suggested that even if Cameron were to admit
taking drugs, Tory voters would still want him to lead their party.

The BPIX poll also showed he is the only one of the four leadership
candidates who could cut Labour's lead and give the Tories the chance of
winning the next election. It found that 61% of Conservative supporters say
that any leadership contender who admitted taking hard drugs should still be
allowed to run, and that Labour's seven-point lead in the polls would be cut
to five points if Cameron were leader.

Supporters of Cameron accused his opponents of fuelling the controversy over
whether he has taken class A drugs. One ally said: "Some right-wing
headbangers have been saying that everything should be declared and that has
aggravated matters in a way that need not have happened. It smacks of a last
roll of the dice."

Alan Duncan, the shadow transport secretary, who switched allegiance from
Davis to Cameron, said: "Strangely, this is having an entirely positive
effect for David Cameron. In the country it is not affecting his chances and
his accusers look like they are misguided."

In public both Ken Clarke and Davis have played down the matter but not
before making sure that they say enough to keep the story in the headlines.
Davis said last week that a class A drug user could not lead the party or
the country.

Clarke and Davis are the most serious rivals to Cameron, who remains the
favourite to succeed Michael Howard as party leader. On Tuesday Tory MPs
will vote in the first ballot that will see the four contenders reduced to

On Thursday a second ballot will decide which two MPs will go forward to a
national vote among the party's 300,000 members. The leader will be known by
early December.

A second poll today shows that Cameron's public support has not been
affected by the row. Online researchers Brainjuicer, which surveyed 650
people, found that 35% thought Cameron would make a successful prime
minister, behind Clarke at 38%. Liam Fox and Davis lagged behind on 14% and
13% respectively.

Davis's comments about drug use may rebound on him. Last year in his role as
shadow home secretary he ordered a briefing paper to be produced urging
shadow ministers not respond to questions on whether they had taken drugs. 
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