On The Message on Friday, Anne Gregory and others gave the opinion that ‘truth will out’ and that David Cameron would be well advised to make a statement to clear up the suspicion about his possible past involvement in hard drugs. I don’t agree.
There’s no right answer to the question ‘did you take drugs as a student?’. ‘No’, if truthful, would seem the best position. But Conservative politicians are keenly aware of the experience of William Hague: fashionably unprivileged upbringing in South Yorkshire, outstanding academic mind (Oxford First), bright McKinsey consultant, brilliant performer in Parliament. So bright, so political, such a prodigy that he did not communicate well with the people who held his future in their hands in the polling station. William Hague would have benefited from appearing to have a more ‘normal’ past – though he was ridiculed for the baseball cap and the story about drinking 14 pints. Sometimes you can try too hard.
If the drugs question is answered, then what answer do you give to these: Have you ever driven over the speed limit in a built-up area? Did you have pre-marital sex? Have you had an extra-marital affair? Do you pick your nose in private? The last one is ridiculous, but it makes a point. If the answer given is ‘no’, then we suspect you’re lying. And picture editors will pay good money for the image that seems to prove it. You’re inviting further intrusion into your privacy. Is ‘yes’ a better answer, then? It establishes that you’re willing to give a straight answer to any question that’s asked of you, so the chase is back on to find a question that would embarrass you. Don’t go there.
Who’d be a politician? And do we want to be represented only by saints and the sanctimonious? How did Bill Clinton survive the public shredding of his private affairs and get re-elected in a nation with a strong Puritan tendency? In Spin Cycle, Howard Kurtz tells the compelling story of PR under pressure in the Clinton White House.