With almost half the candidates for the Tory leadership so eager to admit they’ve dabbled with illegal substances, and one fending off proceedings in court, it’s beginning to look like a contest to resolve who would be the lesser liability as Prime Minister.
Revelations from Michael Gove, arguably Boris Johnson’s main contender, that he used cocaine in his younger days is perhaps the most shocking, but only because he looks like the sort of chap who would carry a lifetime of guilt for stealing the sweeties from a primary school classmate’s lunch box.
Gove’s admission comes amid revelations that he hosted a cocaine-fuelled party hours after slamming the evils of hard drugs. He says it was a “long time ago” while he was a young journalist at The Times, as if that excuses his behaviour.
With at least three other contenders also saying they smoked cannabis it hardly bodes well for their chances of succeeding Theresa May as head of a party that prioritises law and order. Perhaps we should not be too harsh, and accept that it’s a rare person who has not crossed the law. Breaking the speed limits, anyone? Not telling a cashier that she’s just given you too much change? Without getting all Biblical, Jesus said “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”, and this from a man who turned water into wine without having an alcohol licence.
However, things get a bit tricky for Mr Gove whose use of illegal substances might see him barred from travelling to America, which is not a good way to kick-off a new trading relationship. As an aside, Barack Obama, much revered by the British middle classes, also confessed to taking drugs and he got elected to the White House.
Of course, these confessions are now emerging as they were about to be published in a book, though it is inevitable that public relations wonks will have combed through each of the candidates’ personal histories and encouraged them to tell all before nosy journalists find out for themselves and make an even bigger splash about their past lives.
Most galling about Gove’s admission is that none of this came out while he was Justice Secretary. This has led to the almost equally-damning accusation he could face: that of hypocrisy which will give the PR advisers more work to do as they struggle to find something that will sweep the pesky coke issue off the front pages.
And, as if by drug-induced inspiration, Mr Gove has come up with a new idea to boost the economy. Today, in an article in a Sunday newspaper, he reveals plans to replace VAT, “driven by the need to increase investment, productivity and wages across the country, with a special focus on helping those areas and regions where productivity is lower.
“It would mean reducing the regulations which hold business back, cutting and reforming taxes – such as business rates – which put pressure on small businesses and undermine our high streets, using the opportunity of life outside the EU to look to replace VAT with a lower, simpler, sales tax.”
Marvellous. A tax cut, a boost to productivity, and a justification for Brexit, all wrapped in one PR-inspired miracle to save the economy and Mr Gove’s leadership credentials. And that’s not to be sniffed at.