Michael Gove is fighting to stay in the Tory leadership race after the weekend’s startling revelation that during the 1990s he had used cocaine “on several occasions”.
He drew a distinction between individuals behaving illegally and the importance of the drug laws in protecting society. Accordingly, he said, he refused to join London’s liberal consensus for drug legalisation because “there is a greater sin than hypocrisy. It is the refusal to uphold values because one may oneself have fallen short of them.”
Which you might think is having his coke and eating it.
When Boris Johnson was asked whether he had ever used cocaine, he said it was “untrue” to say he’d snorted it. “I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose,” he said. “In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”
Ho ho, what a card, eh, nothing to see here, folks, move along now.
Tories like Boris Johnson boast of their social liberalism. For many outside these gilded circles, however, this embodies the selfish, narcissistic and deeply irresponsible political class they so despise.
Politicians admitting to, or trivialising and thus normalising, drug use reinforce the feeling outside the metropolitan bubble that these shallow, prattling opportunists simply inhabit an entirely different universe.
Which is why Gove has probably now destroyed his own political career. Regardless of his personal fate, however, social liberalism is destroying conservatism.
To read my whole Times column (£) please click here.