From Boris Johnson to Lisa Nandy, quite a few senior MPs seem to have dabbled but they now say they regret it
The government has outlined plans to crack down on middle class drug users, with potential penalties including the possibility of losing your passport or driving licence.
Given polling shows one in nine Britons have taken cocaine – a proportion that rises to a third for cannabis – it is little surprise that a number of senior politicians have admitted prior drug taking.
The prime minister has admitted trying both cocaine and cannabis while at university. On cocaine, he told a GQ interview in 2007 that the substance “achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever”. Two years earlier, appearing on the BBC’s Have I Got News for You, Johnson had tried to divert the question with a joke, saying: “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.”
The communities and levelling-up secretary has been one of the most open leading UK politicians about his drug use, saying in 2019 he had used cocaine it several times. “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 I think, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
The justice secretary, who is also deputy prime minister, has admitted using cannabis, but insisted he had “never taken cocaine or any class A drugs”. He said: “At university, I tried cannabis, not very often as I was into sport. It was a mistake, particularly the more I know now about the link between it and mental health issues.”
The former health and foreign secretary, who now chairs the Commons health committee, is another MP who has conceded cannabis use as a young person, telling the Times he had “a cannabis lassi when I went backpacking through India”.
While not a frontline politician any more, the former Tory MP and international development secretary, wins a space for the cosmopolitan nature of his drug use – smoking opium at an Afghan wedding. He told the Telegraph: “I was invited into the house, the opium pipe was passed around at a wedding.”
The Labour leader hasn’t admitted using drugs, but also has very much not denied, it. In a TV interview with Piers Morgan he batted away more than a dozen questions about drug use, saying only that he had “worked hard and played hard” at university.
The shadow levelling up secretary was more candid, telling ITV, when asked about drug use at university: “I’ve engaged in all sorts of things over the years, but I do regret it actually. You take risks when you’re younger and you don’t understand the consequences. I certainly didn’t think through the consequences of the things that I was doing when I was 17 or 18 years old, but you learn from it.”