I have watched the reports of David Cameron's very minor drug-taking with some interest. Frankly, I really don't care whether or not he smoked cannabis at Eton or, for that matter, whether he dabbled in something stronger at university or some workplace social event.
My view on drugs has tended to be that the actual drug taking itself is a rather minor problem, it is the crimes committed by addicts that are the major social concern. Call it social liberalism if you wish, but I see it as part of the right of individuals to pursue their own interests without let or hindrance up to the point where, in doing so, the freedoms of others are compromised.
My friends in blue have been taking this opportunity to display their new found tolerance and liberalism, although what other stance they could have taken in support of their bright, shiny leader is beyond me. And yet, and yet, perhaps we should be asking ourselves just how committed they are to freedom of the individual and in their opposition to the 'nanny state' that all liberals abhor.
On homosexuality, for example, where by merely scratching the surface, you discover that tolerance is limited to 'activities which I personally approve of'. Sorry guys (and funnily enough, it's generally men who come out with the various 'family values' lines), you're going to have to accept that the right to participate in acts that might make some uncomfortable in a private and consensual manner is something that should be defended. Besides, what is depraved and debauched to some is perfectly natural and pleasurable to others.
On the family, why should the state lecture people as to the ideal of family? Indeed, why should the state offer bribes to encourage people to order their relationships in a 'preferred manner'? Whose right is it to restrict the rights of individuals to adopt, regardless of the nature of their relationship when all that is important is the happiness and well-being of the child?
I'm sure that any Conservative reading this will, with some justification, note that the activities of certain prominent Liberal Democrats have fallen short of the highest moral and ethical standards, and it would be foolish of me to deny that. However, I would counter by pointing out that very few Liberal Democrats have been caught partaking in activities that they have publicly condemned or campaigned against. And that's my point.
Conservatives have generally been quick to condemn those who fail to match up to the highest moral standards (or happen to be poor, but that's a whole different argument) and yet we only need to cast our minds back to the last Conservative administration, whose campaign for family values was somewhat undermined by the fact that a significant number of them were so keen on families that they had more than one.
Most people in this country are willing to forgive individuals for their transgressions, if the individual holds his/her hands up, admits that they were foolish, if foolish they were, and carries on with life. It's those who cover up, lie, or whose behaviour contradicts their carefully constructed public persona, who get, and to be blunt, deserve the pelting with tabloid refuse that generally follows.
I'm confident that the press will be looking for Cameron quotes that condemn drug-taking, and will probably be willing to take down any Shadow Cabinet stragglers who have a past that they now prefer to airbrush out of the records. In many ways, that would be a pity, as the one thing that Cameron has proved is that recreational drug use is not now a bar to holding high public office. Perhaps the debate over how to deal with drug abuse will move on to a more reasoned level now, but I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it...