Drug-accused economist speaks out
A leading economist has spoken about his hopes to "try to live a better life", after newspaper allegations that he was seen smoking crack cocaine in a north London drug den.
The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) announced that its executive chairman Professor Douglas McWilliams was taking a five-month sabbatical after the allegations emerged in the Sunday Mirror.
Speaking to the BBC, Prof McWilliams stressed that he had not admitted the behaviour alleged. And he pointed out that the allegation was that he had taken part in "occasional binges" rather than daily drug use.
He acknowledged he had "issues" in his personal life that he needed to address, and admitted that his professional ambitions may have contributed to a failure to keep his private life "in balance".
Under Prof McWilliams's leadership, the CEBR has offered advice to all the major political parties, though the thinktank stressed that neither he nor any other member of staff had met or spoken to George Osborne since he became Chancellor.
Commenting on his alleged presence at a venue used for drug taking, Prof McWilliams replied: "I haven't admitted I've been there."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's PM as part of a publicity campaign for his book The Flat White Economy, Prof McWilliams said he was not "asking for sympathy".
He said: "This has happened. I wish it hadn't happened, but when these things happen, all you can do is try to live a better life in future and try to address issues that have been drawn attention to.
"The allegations about me are not about things that I do every day. The allegations are about things which have been described as occasional binges and that is what has been said about me.
"There isn't a suggestion that day in, day out, I go off to the sorts of places that have been described in the newspapers. That hasn't been the case and no-one has bothered to suggest that is the case."
Prof McWilliams said he would have liked to have taken "time off" to address his issues some time ago, but had been unable to because of work commitments.
"Obviously, everything you do takes a personal toll. I would have liked to take time off some time ago and address issues I clearly have to address," he said.
"I haven't been able to do so, because I have had too many commitments. Fortunately, my business is now doing so well that I can afford to take time out and that's what I intend to do.
"I want to try to make sure that when I come back, the sorts of things that have been in the press are unlikely to be things that people say about me.
"I probably tried to do too many things at the same time. A lesson for the future is to try to be slightly less ambitious so that one can concentrate on keeping one's personal life better in balance with one's work life."
Asked whether he expected to be able to maintain his family life, he said: "That's a question you have to ask my wife, not me. She has so far been incredible and given me much more support that I deserve."