Written by George R. Jackson
Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary for the UK and a candidate in the Conservative Party leadership contest, did something naughty 20 years ago. He used cocaine. Cocaine is a class A drug in the UK. The media, as well as politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum appear to be troubled by this fact, with Gove himself being forced to admit that it was a ‘mistake’ and that he was ‘fortunate’ that he hadn’t served a jail sentence for his misdeeds as a journalist two decades ago. With the leadership contest ongoing, it is suspected by a number of people that this is a spanner in the works for Gove’s campaign. I, on the other hand, think that it shouldn’t be.
From the outset, I think it is important for you to know that I do not support Michael Gove. To me, he is the prime example of a politician who is at once painful in all respects; he is treacherous, opportunistic and not easy on the eyes. Nonetheless, his drug habits of yesteryear are negligible. What somebody puts in their body prior to entering the political arena is of no importance and it would be wiser to judge politicians by their actions in government, rather than outside of it. If, on the other hand, he were to be struggling with a drug addiction whilst managing the tall order expected of a Prime Minister, then there would be a real cause for concern.
Gove is not an addict, however, or at least does not present as one. Even so, what people should really be paying attention to is what Gove could offer as Prime Minister. If he doesn’t pull out of the race from all the media attention, it would be interesting to see how he fares in the leadership debate on 18th June. That ought to be a better indicator of whether this man should be the next person to lead the UK’s government, rather than what he did when he was in his early thirties.
As was noted earlier, cocaine is a class A drug. This means Gove’s use of the drug was illegal. Whilst he concedes this was a ‘crime’, this begs the question of whether or not he should be punished. If he weren’t to be punished, would this make Gove above the law? Technically speaking, yes it would. Not punishing Gove for his admission would put him among the thousands of others in the country, including a number who sit in Parliament, that have a past of drug-taking without being prosecuted. If Gove were to be punished and serve a jail sentence, why not hold all other politicians who abuse(d) drugs and other drug-takers to the same standard? The answer is that people are getting away with taking illegal drugs all the time and punishing a man running to be the next PM for doing this 20 years ago would be as hypocritical as it is trivial. Further, it would be interesting to find out what the scale of current or historical drug-taking among those in high office is.
Ultimately it is Gove’s track record as a politician that should be open to the most scrutiny. If one is to criticise him, criticise him for his time as Education Secretary, or – more recently – his time as Environment Secretary, where he refused to admit that the UK is in a ‘climate crisis’ and it took a motion passed by the House of Commons for one to be declared. It is these things that should be of the most concern and, while I’m at it, perhaps it is the prevailing attitudes and laws concerning drugs that need to be re-considered. That, however, is a whole other issue.
Featured image courtesy of Sky News