Boris Johnson told to give ‘clear answers’ about past cocaine use

Conflicting statements about drug use expected to come under scrutiny at Mr Johnson’s campaign launch

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
,Andrew Woodcock
Tuesday 11 June 2019 19:27
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Boris Johnson is under pressure to come clean over his drug use after leadership rival Michael Gove’s cocaine admission threatened to derail his bid for No 10.

Mr Johnson’s conflicting statements about his past use of cocaine are expected to come under scrutiny when he launches his campaign to succeed Theresa May on Wednesday.

All of the Tory leadership hopefuls are facing intense scrutiny following the row over Mr Gove’s use of the class A drug more than 20 years ago, when he was working as a journalist.

Mr Johnson, who is the frontrunner in the 10-strong race, has previously said he took cocaine at university but then also claimed he had not actually snorted the drug in a separate interview.

Mark Harper, another leadership hopeful, laid down a challenge to Mr Johnson to give “clear answers” about whether he had used illegal drugs.

Asked whether it was time for Mr Johnson to make a clear statement, the former chief whip said: “I think all candidates in this race owe the public clear answers. I haven’t taken any illegal drugs in my entire life.

“I come from a background where people didn’t do that sort of thing. I don’t get invited to those sorts of parties and I don’t hang out in those sorts of circles.”

He added: “I think we should all answer questions like this if you want to be prime minister. If are not prepared to answer these questions now, you are going to be asked them in a general election campaign.

“If I’m a Conservative MP in a marginal constituency, I want the person who’s going to be leading my party to answer these questions now, I don’t want them to be answering these questions in three years’ time when it’s my marginal constituency up for grabs.

“Everyone has to answer these questions and then my colleagues will ask questions about how frank we’ve been. If you have got nothing to hide, you won’t mind answering questions.”

Fellow candidate Andrea Leadsom said she was afraid of “glamorising” the issue but urged her candidates to be straight with people on their records.

She told a Westminster lunch: “I would just say, politicians coming forward need to be very clear, we all do.

“We are role models, if we’ve done bad things we need to be very clear that we regret them and we don’t think other people should be doing them.”

Norman Lamb, a former Liberal Democrat health minister in the coalition government, said the parade of Conservatives showing “mock sadness” over their past drug use was “revolting and rather obscene”.

“It’s a pretty obscene display, particularly for those who have been convicted of offences, of doing exactly the same as people who aspire to be prime minister of this country,” he said.

“The critical point is if you are a youngster from a poor community, particularly a poor black community, you are more likely to be convicted of an offence than if you are from a privileged background – which most of these people are.

“There’s an awful hypocrisy, which I find quite disgusting, and i think there should be total openness, particularly as they all continue to assert support for a Draconian position, which criminalises people for doing exactly what they have done.”

Mr Johnson is likely to face questions over his past when he breaks cover on Wednesday, as the former foreign secretary has made few public appearances since announcing his candidacy.

In an appearance on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You in 2005, Mr Johnson admitted being given the drug but joked that he had not actually taken it.

He said: “I think I was once given cocaine but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose.

“In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”

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Yet in an interview with Piers Morgan in GQ in 2007, Mr Johnson said: “Yes. I tried it at university and I remember it vividly.

“And it achieved no pharmacological, psycho-tropical or any other effect on me whatsoever.”

Pressed on whether the drug actually went up his nose, he said: “It must have done, yes, but it didn’t do much for me, I can tell you.”

A source close to Mr Johnson previously highlighted his 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.”

Among the other candidates, Rory Stewart has admitted to smoking opium at a wedding in Iran, while Jeremy Hunt said he drank a cannabis lassi while backpacking.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has never taken drugs, while Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Esther McVey and Ms Leadsom have all admitted to smoking cannabis when they were younger.

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