The most recent admission came Saturday, when British media reported that Michael Gove admitted to taking drugs on several occasions when he was a “young journalist” two decades ago. He called it a “mistake” that he “deeply” regrets.
In a released excerpt from a book on Gove’s life, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs is said to have confessed, while being quizzed by his leadership team, to consuming cocaine.
Gove and Bennett have not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Drug of the privileged
In the United Kingdom, addictive and expensive powder is usually considered the drug of choice among the privileged. Gove’s alleged use of it “might reinforce the idea of the millionaire conservative,” Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, told CNN.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas admonished the “rank hypocrisy” of Gove, who is a former justice minister, “while backing policies that perpetuate harm. From locking up disproportionate number of young, black men, to treating drug misuse as crime rather than health issue, prohibition fails us all,” she said on Twitter.
The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, dismissed the news. “I think people should tell us what they have done and move on in life,” the Labour Party leader told Britain’s Press Association. “But I’m unconcerned about Michael Gove’s past life or behavior, to be quite honest.”
Raab, Gove’s colleague, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program he did not think Gove’s chances in the race would be impacted. “I certainly don’t see it barring him from this race in any way. I rather admire his honesty,” he said.
“I feel it is difficult to believe this will be a career-terminating event because there are so many other contenders who experimented when younger with soft or hard drugs,” Bale, the politics professor, said.
The mixed response might be due to a move toward “more honesty and authenticity” in political campaigning, Bale said, adding that politicians are navigating an environment where the ease of sharing information online could be making it difficult for politicians to “bolt the door” on past indiscretions.
Even the top contender for the Conservative Party leadership, Boris Johnson, has previously admitted to trying cocaine and cannabis when he was a teenager. The 2007 revelation in GQ magazine is just one of the litany of Johnson’s admitted indiscretions that has done little to shake his popularity among Conservative voters.
While it is hard to see the revelation killing off Gove’s political career, it may scupper his chances among the 160,000 card-carrying members of the Conservative Party, who have the ultimate say on who will be the leader.
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Gove said the decision rests in the hands of “my colleagues in Parliament and members of the Conservative Party to decide now if I should be leader.”
“I think all politicians have lives before politics,” he added.
But with Conservative Party members being “older and more socially conservative than the average voter,” Bale said, Gove might be out of luck.
CNN’s Kieron Mirchandani contributed to this report.