LONDON, UK — British Environment Secretary Michael Gove has admitted using cocaine on “several occasions” two decades ago, as Conservative Party leadership hopefuls rush to admit past sins and avoid any surprises during what is expected to be a heated contest.
“About 20 years ago before I was married, I did take drugs,” he told the Daily Mail, adding it happened “on several occasions at social events.”
“It was something I deeply regret. Drugs damage lives… it was a mistake.”
The 51-year-old Tory MP said he was “a young journalist” when he decided to take cocaine, and that he had not envisaged going into politics at the time.
“I look back and I think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ But I don’t believe that past mistakes disqualify you,” he added.
“Obviously it will be for my colleagues in parliament and members of the Conservatives Party to decide now if I should be leader,” he added.
Gove, a one-time close ally of David Cameron is a staunch supporter of Israel and the British Jewish community. He’s been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “the most ardent Zionist in the government” and had issued repeated warnings about the threat of anti-Semitism — delivered long before Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership.
Last year, he delivered a rousing speech to the Tory conference in which he pledged the party’s “unshakable solidarity with the Jewish community.” Attacking Corbyn, he declared: “When our Jewish friends and neighbors live in fear for their futures, let us stand with them.”
Gove is the latest candidate in the race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May to acknowledge using banned substances.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Times he drank a “cannabis lassi” while backpacking in India in his youth. International Development Secretary Rory Stewart told the Telegraph he smoked opium at a wedding in Iran 15 years ago.
Rival Dominic Raab, who previously admitted smoking cannabis as a student, told the BBC he admired Gove’s honesty. He says he won’t criticize anyone for “holding their hand up and saying ‘I got that wrong.'”
May stepped down as Conservative leader on Friday and formally triggered the race for a successor — currently being contested by Gove and 10 other MPs — but will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen.
The leader of the party, which won the most seats at the last general election in 2017, automatically becomes prime minister.
The battle is expected to conclude by the end of next month, with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson the bookmakers’ favorite to emerge victorious.
Johnson, an ex-London mayor, has previously suggested he may also have tried to use cocaine, but later denied he had actually taken the drug.