Ms Leadsom, 56, said she had never taken cocaine or any other class drug and had never smoked cannabis – which she referred to as “weed” – since leaving Warwick University, where she read political science in the 1980s.
“I have never taken cocaine or Class A drugs,” she told The Independent. “Everyone is entitled to a private life before becoming an MP. I smoked weed at university and have never smoked it again since.”
Tory leadership hopefuls were put on the spot about their experience of drug use after Michael Gove admitted taking cocaine “on several occasions” at social gatherings when he was a young journalist.
“I took drugs on several occasions at social events more than 20 years ago,” he told The Daily Mail. “At the time I was a young journalist. It was a mistake. I look back and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that’. It was 20 years ago and, yes, it was a mistake. But I don’t believe that past mistakes disqualify you.”
One of Mr Gove’s rivals for the Tory leadership, Dominic Raab, said that his admission should not force him out of the contest, adding that he “rather admired his honesty”.
“It’s ultimately for MPs and colleagues and members to decide, but I certainly don’t see it as barring him from this race in any way,” Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today. The former Brexit secretary, who has previously admitted occasionally smoking cannabis at university, added: “I’ve never taken cocaine or any other Class A drugs. I think Class A drugs are a bit different.”
Sajid Javid’s team said that the home secretary had never taken illegal drugs, while Rory Stewart, who last week revealed he had smoked opium at a wedding in Iran, said he admired Mr Gove for his honesty.
A source close to Boris Johnson highlighted his previous statement that “I was once at university offered a white substance, none of which went up my nose, and I have no idea whether it was cocaine or not”. And asked whether Jeremy Hunt had ever taken illegal substances, his team pointed to his recent admission of drinking a cannabis lassi while backpacking in India.
Ms Leadsom’s resignation from the cabinet last month sparked a train of events that led to Theresa May’s resignation as Conservative leader.
She quit as leader of the Commons because she felt unable to introduce Ms May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would have enabled the ratification of Brexit under terms agreed with Brussels last November but opposed by many Tory Leavers.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies