Christa Ackroyd: Why taking cocaine is not big and it's not clever Mr Gove

Tory leadership contender Michael Gove who admitted taking cocaine when he was younger Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Tory leadership contender Michael Gove who admitted taking cocaine when he was younger Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Michael Gove and I have two things in common. We are both adopted and both trained journalists and there the similarities end.

I have never used cocaine. I am not that stupid. As my Dad would say, “It’s not big. And it’s not clever.”

And it’s certainly never cool, whether you are a “middle class professional”, as Gove himself once described those who see taking cocaine as a bit of harmless fun, or a girl who sells her body on the streets to feed a habit.

Yet who is judged more? The girl on the streets of course. Even though she was probably targeted and groomed.

Drugs of all kinds destroy lives. According to police they also account for one in three crimes. If you have your house broken into or your car stolen, it is probably because of drugs. If you have smoked copious amounts of cannabis your mental health will probably suffer.

Those are the facts. So-called party drugs are peddled by dealers in death too. The very thought of drugs of any kind quite frankly terrifies me.

I suspect I have an addictive personality. I can’t open a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates and have just a taste. I want to finish the lot.

I have struggled over the years to pack in smoking. Now down to a bare minimum, I just can’t quit totally.

So drugs frighten me for so many reasons, not least the criminal activities they fund and the lives they destroy. The use of cocaine as a recreational drug for posh folks is just as abhorrent as sticking a needle in your arm to inject heroin.

It is still supplied by criminals who feed on people’s misery and, according to the United Nations Security Council, it also funds, at least in part, global terrorism. So the idea of legalising all or even some drugs is totally unacceptable. I am with Gove on that one. I have been in the company of people who did coke. Not that I ever realised it. I must be stupid, but I never realised why they kept disappearing to the toilets or they didn’t seem to eat anything.

Yet they were buzzing and always up for a party. They held down high-profile jobs, but they hid their addiction and that is what is was, behind the cloak of being party animals. I also heard tales of lines of coke chopped up with Platinum American Express cards being passed around like after dinner mints and snooked up through £20 notes .

Fortunately no one ever encouraged me to join in. I would have run a mile. Not just be because it was illegal but because it is pathetic. You don’t need drugs to discover a personality. In the end it will always destroy the one you were born to have.

Before I continue let me tell me a theory I have. I could make a front page story out of anyone’s life. There is not a person alive who has not done or said something that we regret. And if life is a journey then as we travel along it we learn by our mistakes, so Michael Gove was right to confess to taking Class A drugs not once but on several occasions.

But has it scuppered his chance of high office? Yes, I rather think it has. For now. Michael Gove has set his stall out as a leader. Strong leadership is what’s needed, he says.

Yet his admission that he has used cocaine, albeit 20 years ago, proves he was a follower not a leader.
Just because everyone else was doing it doesn’t make it acceptable. It makes him weak. And before we pretty it up, you don’t take cocaine you snort it.

Now when Michael Gove is in ‘public office’ he is shamed and sorry and quick to point out it all happened when he was a journalist.

Well I know hundreds and hundreds of journalists. None of them, as far as I know snort cocaine.

And here’s my problem. A good journalist in my book IS in public office. And a good politician should not admit his or her mistakes only when he or she is found out, often ironically by good journalists doing a good job.

This latest saga won’t end his career, but it will forever haunt him the way it came out..

How much more powerful would Michael Gove’s message have been to those who sought to decriminalise drugs when he was Justice Secretary if he had said I know it’s wrong, because I have been there?

We would have said there goes an honest politician. Everyone deserves a second chance

If I were Gove I would pull out of the race for the top job and begin my political rehabilitation. That would be a powerful message, that honesty is still the best policy. And for a politician that is a message not to be sniffed at.