Walk the line: behind the story of Michael Gove’s cocaine use

Tory leadership hopeful revealed he had taken drug in mock-media interview for 2016 campaign

In the run-up to his 2016 campaign to be Tory leader, Michael Gove was being subjected to a mock media interview by his team, as they tried to anticipate what questions he could face from journalists.


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In his soon-to-be published biography, Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry, the journalist Owen Bennett writes that the then justice secretary was asked if he had ever taken drugs. Yes, cocaine, he replied, according to someone described as having intimate knowledge of the event.

According to Bennett: He was firmly instructed not to give that answer in public, and told instead to fall back on the words [David] Cameron had used when he was running for leader, namely that politicians are entitled to a private life before entering politics.

As the Daily Mail prepared to publish that anecdote in an extract of Bennetts book on Saturday, the environment secretary was forced to come clean. The book is correct, Gove said. I did take drugs. It is something I deeply regret. Drugs damage lives. They are dangerous and it was a mistake.

Obviously it will be for 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. Certainly, when I was working as a journalist, I didnt imagine I would go into politics or public service. I didnt act with an eye to that.

The story quickly made it to the second edition front pages of Saturdays Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, and its position at the top of the news agenda was established.

Quick guide

Tory leadership contenders

Michael Gove

The environment secretary is to pitch himself as a unity candidate capable of attracting leavers and remainers, as he formally declared his candidacy saying: I believe that Im ready to unite the Conservative and Unionist party, ready to deliverBrexitand ready to lead this great country. But robust Brexiters in particular dislike the fact that he stayed loyal even in the final days of the crumbling May regime.

Sam Gyimah

The former universities ministeris calling for a ‘final say on the Brexit deal’ as the only way to break the parliamentary deadlock. Gyimah is the only candidate offering a second referendum on Brexit, saying ‘There is a wide range of candidates out there but there is a very narrow set of views on Brexit being discussed’.

Matt Hancock

The health secretary remains a relative outsider, but the longer the race goes on, the more he gains ground for the seemingly basic virtues ofbeing apparently competentand broadly similar to a normal human being, albeit a particularly energetic one. A concerted effortwould probably requirean image consultant.


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Mark Harper

The former immigration minister and chief whip was behind the controversial ‘go-home’ vans when working under Theresa May at the Home Office. Heresigned as immigration minister in 2014after it emerged he was employing a cleaner who did not have permission to work in the UK. He later served as David Camerons chief whip. But he has not served in Theresa Mays government and has, therefore, sought to cast himself as the candidate who offers ‘fresh thinking.

Jeremy Hunt

Fears that the foreign secretary would be another overly woolly compromise choice were hardly assuaged when after a set-piece speech he seemedunable to outlinewhy his brand of Conservatism might appeal to voters. Hunt has been backed by Liam Fox.

Sajid Javid

The home secretary still has the same weaknesses: he is an uninspiring speaker and some worry he is too fond of headline-grabbing,illiberal political gestures. But he is almost as ubiquitous as Liz Truss, and clearly believes this is his time.

Boris Johnson

The out-and-out favourite, so popular with the Tory grassroots that it would be hard for MPs to not make Johnson one of the final two. He has beenrelatively quiet recently, beyond his regular Telegraph column, but this is very deliberate.

Andrea Leadsom

The former House of Commons leader, who left Theresa May as the last candidate standing when she pulled out of theprevious leadership racein 2016, has decided to have another tilt at the top job, saying she has the experience and confidence to lead this country into a brighter future. But even with her staunch Brexiter tendencies, she would be seen as an outsider.

Esther McVey

The former work and pensions secretary, whoquit last yearover Mays Brexit plans, haslaunched her ownin-party campaign group/leadership vehicle called Blue Collar Conservatism, promising to make the party more amenable to voters in deprived communities mainly through a promise to deliver a strong Brexit and policies such as diverting much of the foreign aid budget to schools and police.

Dominic Raab

Few things say would-be leader in waiting like a kitchen photoshoot with your spouse, and the former Brexit secretary duly obligedwith this imageawash with tasteful pastel hues. He formally launched his bidin the Mail on Sunday. Among the more core constituency of Conservative MPs, Raab has been pushing hard, as has his semi-officialReady for RaabTwitter feed.

Rory Stewart

The cabinets most recent arrival Mordaunts promotion to defence led to Stewart becoming international development secretary certainly has the necessaryambition and self-belief, plus a privileged if unorthodox backstory covering Eton, Oxford, a senior role in postwar Iraq and a bestselling book about walking across Afghanistan. He remains an outsider, not least because of his remain tendencies and slightly 2010 view of compassionate Conservatism. He’s become a social media darling and been endorsed by Ken Clarke, but his reputation as ‘Florence of Belgravia‘ may hinder him.

And those not in the running

Sir Graham Brady, Penny Mordaunt andJames Brokenshire are yet to declare their intentions.Liz Truss and Amber Rudd have ruled themselves out.

Among other senior figures not expected to run are Brandon Lewis, Chris Grayling and Philip Hammond. Gavin Williamsons recent sacking after the Huawei leak inquiry will also surely rule him out as an option this time around.

James Cleverlyand Kit Malthouse withdrew from the contest.

The revelations have provoked criticism from across the political spectrum, with the former senior drug adviser to the government Prof David Nutt telling the Observer that Goves disclosure was more proof that privileged politicians felt able to break the law, but not for others to do the same.


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Craig Oliver, who was the former prime minister David Camerons chief spin doctor, told BBC Radio 4s Today programme that the admission could become an issue that overshadowed Goves leadership campaign messages, as the Tory rank and file were very socially conservative.

The following day, the Mail on Sunday reported claims that in 1999 Gove had written a column urging tougher action against cocaine use shortly before hosting a party at his Mayfair flat where guests were openly taking the drug. Goves spokesman said he had no recollection of a party on that date.

In the piece, headlined When its right to be a hypocrite, Gove wrote that he did not agree with Londons liberal consensus on loosening rules on the use of cocaine and other drugs. The knowledge that millennial demand for illegal drugs may lead to the potentially lethal adulteration of some substances hasnt been used to explain to citizens that the law is there for a purpose, he wrote. Instead its been acknowledged that some people feel they have to see in the new millennium in an altered state, so weve been given advice on how to minimise risk.

Despite the hostile headlines, Gove did not shy away from an appearance on the BBCs Andrew Marr Show, but that quickly turned into a grilling about whether he had ever lied on any official forms about his past drug use.

The environment secretary looked rattled and uncomfortable under tough lines of questioning about whether he should have gone to prison for taking Class A drugs and if it was right for teachers to have been banned from their profession for similar conduct.

The mood among the other leadership campaigns was one of excitement that the second place in the contest looked wide open, with the teams of Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock all feeling they were in with a chance again to take on the likely frontrunner, Boris Johnson.

However, there was also nervousness about the level of skulduggery going on behind the scenes, as many of the advisers on the various campaigns have worked together closely in the past and have the potential to know a multitude of political secrets that might harm their rivals. The clean campaign pledge signed by some of the candidates may yet be overtaken by events.

The best guess of Gove supporters was that someone working for a rival might have spoken to Bennett about Goves initial confession in 2015. The Mail on Sunday ran reports that Gove supporters suspected Beth Armstrong, an aide to Dominic Raab who used to work for Gove, of having leaked the information.

It doesnt take Sherlock to work out how this got out, one insider told the paper. Raabs team said: This did not come from anyone involved in the Raab campaign. We would never look to score cheap political points like this. We have nothing but admiration for Michael Gove and all he has achieved as a minister.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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