Cameron struggles with the Bullingdon question

"We all do stupid things when we're young," says Cameron. Why then "zero tolerance" for the looters?

David Cameron was his usual assured self on this morning's Today programme until Evan Davis asked him the "Bullingdon question". Wasn't the infamous Oxford club (whose idea of a good night out was characterised by Evelyn Waugh as beating a fox to death with champagne bottles) just like the gangs that rioted? An audibly uncomfortable Cameron replied: "we all do stupid things when we're young - and we should learn the lessons." It's notable that Cameron used the same formulation during the 2005 Tory leadership election when he was asked about rumours of past drug use. Indeed, he previously responded to a question about that Bullingdon Club photo by similarly claiming: "we do things when we're young and we deeply regret them". It sounded like an admission of guilt then and it sounds like an admission of guilt now.

But Cameron refused to accept that there was any comparison to be made between the behaviour of the club's members and the rioters. The riots, he said, were "very well organised", which rather invites the response: is disorganised violence acceptable? Cameron's claim that he never saw a restaurant smashed up will also be challenged by some of his university contemporaries. But it was his assertion that "we all do stupid things when we're young" (in fact, some will reply, not all of us) that will prove most damaging. As Cameron said, we learn with age. Why then hand down the most draconian sentences possible? Cameron was in danger of appearing to suggest that it was one rule for the Oxford elite and another for the rest of the society.

This is one subject that the PM would rather never be asked about again. But after his faltering response today, it is certain that he will be.

An earlier version of this post was lost, along with users' comments. We apologise for the inconvenience.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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“Why are you here?”: Juncker and MEPs mock Nigel Farage at the European Parliament

Returning to the scene of the crime.

In today's European Parliament session, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, tried his best to keep things cordial during a debate on Brexit. He asked MEPs to "respect British democracy and the way it voiced its view".

Unfortunately, Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and MEP, felt it necessary to voice his view a little more by applauding - the last straw even for Juncker, who turned and spat: "That's the last time you are applauding here." 

MEPs laughed and clapped, and he continued: "I am surprised you are here. You are fighting for the exit. The British people voted in f avour of the exit. Why are you here?"  

Watch the exchange here:

Farage responded with an impromptu speech, in which he pointed out that MEPs laughed when he first planned to campaign for Britain to leave the EU: "Well, you're not laughing now". Hee said the EU was in "denial" and that its project had "failed".

MPs booed again.

He continued:

"Because what the little people did, what the ordinary people did – what the people who’d been oppressed over the last few years who’d seen their living standards go down did – was they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said actually, we want our country back, we want our fishing waters back, we want our borders back. 

"We want to be an independent, self-governing, normal nation. That is what we have done and that is what must happen. In doing so we now offer a beacon of hope to democrats across the rest of the European continent. I’ll make one prediction this morning: the United Kingdom will not be the last member state to leave the European Union."

The Independent has a full transcript of the speech.

Now, it sounds like Farage had something prepared – so it's no wonder he turned up in Brussels for this important task today, while Brexiteers in Britain frantically try to put together a plan for leaving the EU.

But your mole has to wonder if perhaps, in the face of a falling British pound and a party whose major source of income is MEP salaries and expenses, Farage is less willing to give up his cushy European job than he might like us to think. 

I'm a mole, innit.