David Cameron was left fuming yesterday after his rowdy student days were likened to last month’s riots.
The PM, who was in Oxford University’s infamous Bullingdon Club, was asked if there were similarities between being a member of “a youthful gang that engages in violent behaviour” and the rampaging mobs who brought anarchy to our streets.
He snapped “we all do stupid things when we are young” – despite previously slamming the rioters as proof Britain had a “sick society”.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Evan Davis, who also hosts TV’s Dragon Den, persisted asking: “Did you witness stuff as a member of that club... people throwing things through windows, smashing up restaurants?”
Mr Cameron replied: “No I didn’t and, as I say, we all do stupid things. But what we saw during the riots was very well organised in many cases looting and stealing and thieving.”
Last night Labour demanded the PM clear up an account of his uni days in which rampaging Bullingdon Club members are said to have smashed a restaurant window in 1987.
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, said: “David Cameron has questions to answer after his claim that he did not witness people throwing things through windows or smashing up restaurants during his days as a Bullingdon Club member.
“This is very different to what other people remember.
“If we are to get more responsibility throughout our society following the riots then the Prime Minister should set an example.”
The PM yesterday hit back with his own attack on the BBC’s reporting of the riots. He said: “When you listen to the BBC there’s a sort of danger of trying to put these things into a great mush and make that as an excuse for not acting.”
And sources close to No 10 have let it be known the Prime Minister’s team were furious with the programme over the line of questioning.
A source said: “Cameron’s team thought Evan Davis had totally overstepped the mark. Cameron was very angry, there’s no doubt about that. He hates it when his background and questions about his class are brought up.”
A Downing Street source insisted no official complaint had been made to the BBC following the programme.
The corporation yesterday defended its reporting of the riots after Mr Cameron’s attack. A spokesman said: “The BBC’s coverage and analysis of the recent riots endeavoured to explore all aspects, as our audiences would expect. We also sought to reflect a range of views as to the reasons behind the riots. We are confident we did this in an impartial and balanced manner.”
Davis defended his questioning on Twitter, saying it “was about whether there is a general decline and whether we can forgive youngsters caught up in stupid things”.
It has been claimed Mr Cameron retired early to bed before the raucous evening in which Bullingdon members ran from the police through the streets of Oxford after smashing up a restaurant. According to a club source, Mr Cameron was definitely at the party but, unlike most of his friends, managed to escape alongside Boris Johnson and another student called Sebastian Grigg.
Some members of the club ended up spending a night in the cells at Cowley police station.
Despite Mr Cameron’s denial yesterday, he has previously said that “there was a time at university when lots of people drank too much and fell over, and I plead guilty”.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron also revisited his famous “hug a hoodie” policy by saying the rioters needed “tough love” after enduring a hard upbringing.
He claimed many of the thugs had not been given enough love in their childhood and promised to turn around 120,000 problem families by 2015.