Shadow chancellor claims tabloid smear
GEORGE Osborne, David Cameron's second-in-command, claimed he was the victim of a "smear campaign" last night after a tabloid newspaper published a 10-year-old picture of him at a party with a woman it described as a prostitute.
Osborne, the shadow chancellor, hit back as the News of the World revealed merely that he knew the woman who, the newspaper claimed, took cocaine and turned Osborne's best friend into a drug addict.
There are no suggestions that he himself took drugs or had any relationship with her.
Sources close to Osborne last night said they believed the woman was a client of Max Clifford, the publicist who has a long history of selling salacious stories to tabloid newspapers.
Clifford has openly stated in the past that he led a "vendetta" against the former Major government with the aim of bringing down the Tories.
The Shadow Chancellor did not name Clifford, but his allies believe that the infamous publicist has set his sights on both Osborne and Cameron, as he did with the previous generation of Conservatives.
Osborne said: "The allegations are completely untrue, and dredging up a photo from when I was 22 years old is pretty desperate stuff.
"This is merely part of an absurd smear campaign to divert attention from the issues that matter in this leadership contest, and I am confident that people will not be distracted by this rubbish," he said.
However, the fact that Osborne took the brunt of tabloid attention last night has only served to highlight the lack of any scandal hitting Cameron, despite tabloid journalists spending all last week pursuing him.
It is thought many Tory MPs were waiting for any revelations to appear in today's papers before deciding where to cast their vote in this week's ballot.
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