The Tory leadership race has taken on a new turn this weekend with the Daily Mail splashing on Michael Gove’s cocaine confession. The Environment Secretary tells the paper that he took the ‘drugs on several occasions at social events more than 20 years ago’. At the time, Gove was working as a journalist. Of the experience, he says: ‘It was a mistake. I look back and I think, I wish I hadn’t done that.’ Gove goes on to say that he doesn’t think this should rule him out of the leadership race:
‘I don’t believe that past mistakes disqualify you.’
The admission comes ahead of the publication of a book about Gove by Owen Bennett – Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry. So, how did it come to pass? According to the book, Gove first admitted to having used cocaine during the last Tory leadership contest in 2016 when his then advisers were putting him ‘through his paces’. Gove replied by telling the team of his previous use and was told that if asked about it to use the answer David Cameron would always give: ‘Politicians are entitled to a private life before entering politics.’
In this vein, Gove has made the point to the Daily Mail that when he took the drug he had no inkling that he would become an elected politician:
‘Certainly when I was working as a journalist I didn’t imagine I would go into politics or public service. I didn’t act with an eye to that.’
This will come as a surprise to many of his friends and confidantes. The former Oxford Union president and biographer of Michael Portillo – who at one point lived in a Mayfair flat with Ed Vaizey (son of a Tory grandee) – was a self-described ‘young Tory’ whose advice was regularly sought by others wishing to become MPs.