Pubdate: Sun, 21 Oct 2007
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Authors: Daniel Foggo and Roger Waite
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


NO wonder the Liberal Democrats are all over the place: one of the
contenders for the party leadership once declared that opium could be
"safely experimented with" and that LSD "holds no surprises".

This weekend Chris Huhne is discovering, just as David Cameron before
him, that his undergraduate days at Oxford can come back to haunt him.
Last night Huhne, 53, was doing his best to disown an article he
appears to have written in an Oxford student magazine about the
benefits of illegal hard drugs.

The piece, which bears his name as an 18-year-old student at Oxford
University in the 1970s, states that drugs such as opium, LSD, and
amphetamines should be an "accepted facet of our society".

Most notable is the author's apparent familiarity with class A
substances and their effect when taken. "Opium is available in Oxford
and, in its natural form can be safely experimented with," the article
states. Opium and the class A drug heroin are both opiates. "Colours,
movements and shapes are serenely beautiful, as beautiful as a dream
and as realistic as George's [a cafe frequented by students] at 7.30
on a Monday morning.

"Acid [LSD] is manufactured in the labs and is the only drug which is
getting cheaper . . . The considerable number of students at this
university who drop acid are well-balanced highly intelligent people .
. . if one is able to live with oneself . . . then acid holds no surprises."

The article was published in the university's Isis magazine in
February 1973 clearly bearing his byline. But this weekend the MP for
Eastleigh was struggling, possibly through the passage of time, to
remember it. He said that he could not recall writing it and suggested
he might only have been compiling the thoughts of other

"To be honest I don't have any memory of it," said Huhne. He insisted
that it was his private business whether or not he had taken opium or
any other drug, but said "the views that were [expressed in the
article] are certainly not my views as they are at the moment".

The disclosure comes as the contest for the Lib Dem leadership begins
to look like a two-horse race between Huhne and the party's home
affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg.

Steve Webb, the party's manifesto writer, has ruled himself out of the
contest and the former leader Charles Kennedy said it was "unlikely"
he would put himself forward as a candidate. Kennedy previously quit
the leadership after it emerged he had a drink problem.

Last week Sir Menzies Campbell quit, partly because many people
regarded him as too old. Is there any candidate in the party young,
sober and drug-free enough to claim the crown?

Clegg is emerging as the front-runner. He has nearly half of the Lib
Dem front bench as supporters and is also endorsed by former leader
Lord Ashdown. Some in the party say this is partly because they blame
Huhne for the whispering campaign against Campbell. One Lib Dem MP
said: "You can't wield the dagger and then claim the crown."

Huhne, who is regarded as intelligent but dry, is not entirely a
stranger to controversy.

During the last Lib Dem leadership election, in which he was runner-up
to Campbell, his supporters were accused of attempting to boost his
standing by placing hefty bets on their candidate with the bookies.
His camp has always denied the allegations.

Huhne went to Magdalen College and won a first class degree in
politics, philosophy and economics. He began writing for Isis soon
after starting university and became its joint editor for a period.

The exposition on the benefits of hard drugs was published as part of
a longer article on how to "escape" the trials of being a student at

"There are a number of people who are open-minded about experimenting
with drugs," recorded the piece, which was accompanied by a drawing of
a hand holding a syringe.

"This tolerance is welcome, and it is only with the aid of this
tolerance that drugs can be put in their correct unsensationalist
place as a social phenomenon with great and respectable

When asked about the article Huhne said: "I was basically putting
together large hunks of that, so God knows who wrote it and did
anything and I wouldn't attribute it to me if I were you."

When told that his byline was attached, he added: "I may have edited
the piece but as I say I was just bringing together whole loads of

Huhne's Oxford contemporaries said they could not recall him taking

Rupert Wollheim, a fellow student at Magdalen, said: "If you are
saying did I know Chris Huhne took opium, absolutely to the best of my
knowledge not. I would probably have known because I had rooms next to
him in college." 
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