Conservative Party members yesterday emphatically rejected the argument that alcoholism is a greater social evil than drug addiction.

A motion stating that alcohol does more harm than drugs was defeated by 63 per cent to 37 per cent at the party's Bournemouth conference.

The vote came after former national newspaper editor Rosie Boycott said Britain was "in a state of denial" about alcohol.

Speaking for the "hot topic" motion, Ms Boycott - a recovering alcoholic - said: "It's a drug that's perfectly okay for 90 per cent of the population and it's really terrible for ten per cent of the population."

She added: "In terms of families it causes breakdowns, domestic upsets and the reckoning is that for each active alcoholic there is, there are five other people around them who are also suffering a lot of emotional trauma."

Ms Boycott, who once campaigned to decriminalise cannabis, added: "If my teenage daughter was in a back alley and she bumped into six young men who'd either consumed 25 cans of Special Brew or smoked a few joints which would I rather happen?

"I have to say I'd rather she met the guys who smoked the joints because the chances are they'd just fall over rather than try to rape her or mug her."

Opposing the motion, Jim Doherty, manager of a family support charity, warned of the corrosive effect of drugs on communities.

"We've got no moral values left in my community. There's no Christian values left. Drugs has destroyed it all," he said.

In contributions from the floor, one Tory activist and police officer said dealing with a drunk was incomparable with the "real horror" of visiting a crack den and seeing lives destroyed by drugs.