Gove’s co­caine rev­e­la­tion is just a sideshow

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - With Dar­ragh Clif­ford

THE contest to see who will re­place Theresa May as leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party be­gan in earnest this week, and in keep­ing with the sur­real tone of Bri­tish pol­i­tics these days, the race has started with a bang.

Boris John­son may be the book­ies’ favourite to take over at No 10, but it is en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary Michael Gove who made all the head­lines over the week­end, af­ter he ad­mit­ted to tak­ing co­caine on sev­eral oc­ca­sions more than 20 years ago when he worked as a journalist.

Nat­u­rally, this bomb­shell of a rev­e­la­tion has re­sulted in wide­spread calls for him to step down from the contest. Gove has been la­belled a hyp­ocrite by many, af­ter a 20-year-old col­umn resur­faced over the week­end where he urged tougher action against co­caine use shortly before he hosted a party at his London home where guests where ap­par­ently openly tak­ing the drug.

This is where things start to get a lit­tle com­pli­cated, and it is pos­si­ble to feel a con­sid­er­able amount of sym­pa­thy for Gove - words I never imag­ined I would write.

When David Cameron was run­ning for the lead­er­ship of the Tories, he main­tained the line that politi­cians are en­ti­tled to a pri­vate life before en­ter­ing pol­i­tics.

Now we have mem­bers of the Bri­tish press slat­ing a for­mer col­league for preach­ing one thing but prac­tis­ing some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent. This is a de­li­cious irony, the Bri­tish press lec­tur­ing a pub­lic fig­ure on hypocrisy. Has Fleet Street in Eng­land sud­denly been pop­u­lated by an­gels with no che­quered pasts of their own? I think not.

Surely Cameron is right (some­thing else I never thought I would write) when he said

politi­cians are en­ti­tled to a pri­vate past. If you were to delve into the past be­hav­iour of our es­teemed 158 deputies in Le­in­ster House, chances are you would dig up some Class A dirt on many of them. But so what? Does it really mat­ter that an elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive did some­thing stupid or il­le­gal in a past life if they have learnt the er­rors of their ways and have moved on?

Michael Gove should not be Prime Min­is­ter of the United King­dom, but co­caine use from two decades ago is not the rea­son why. It is not as if he ad­mit­ted to do­ing a line of co­caine before go­ing into a cab­i­net meet­ing at Down­ing Street - al­though given the chaos of Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment it may have ex­plained a lot.

Gove has proven him­self to be a politi­cian of ques­tion­able stan­dards, and has at­tracted con­tro­versy for much of his po­lit­i­cal life. He has been em­broiled in an ex­penses scan­dal, has re­peat­edly dodged Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests re­gard­ing the use of pri­vate email ac­counts for of­fi­cial use, he made an in­ap­pro­pri­ate joke about Har­vey We­in­stein, he sanc­tioned three ‘cre­ation­ist’ schools as ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary and in 2016 he fa­mously said that Bri­tain has had quite enough of ‘ex­perts’ who were warn­ing about the dan­gers of Brexit.

His ‘ex­perts’ jibe really took the bis­cuit - it was the mod­ern day equiv­a­lent of the fa­mous Monty Python sketch where a grumpy John Cleese asks what the bloody hell have the Ro­mans ever done for us?

Gove now finds him­self in a sit­u­a­tion where ques­tions are be­ing asked about his abil­ity to travel to the United States, given his co­caine rev­e­la­tions. Crit­ics are ask­ing if he failed to de­clare that he had used il­le­gal drugs in the past when ap­ply­ing for a travel visa for the United States.

This is the flea-rid­den state Bri­tish pol­i­tics finds itself in. A front-run­ner for Prime Min­is­ter hav­ing to as­sure the Bri­tish pub­lic that he won’t be put back on a plane the next time he tries to en­ter the United States. This is all just an un­nec­es­sary sideshow. In­stead of be­ing quizzed about how he will steer the UK through the Brexit quag­mire, he is apol­o­gis­ing for some­thing that hap­pened long before he en­tered po­lit­i­cal life.

And all the while, Boris John­son is qui­etly rub­bing his hands with glee, which is a truly ter­ri­fy­ing prospect for Ire­land. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, this Tory lead­er­ship contest will have mas­sive im­pli­ca­tions for us, and will be com­pul­sive view­ing over the next few months. Hold onto your hats, it is go­ing to be a bumpy ride.

Michael Gove.

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