tory leaders drugs vice signalling
Politicians

Tory leadership contest: when did vice signalling become a virtue?

The Tory leadership contest has taken a strange turn. Perhaps it’s a purposeful distraction from their (non-)strategies for realising Brexit, but they seem to have taken to vice signalling (or, for believers, sin signalling) in order to reassure voters that they’re only human and can do sincere remorse, or perhaps to mitigate the possibility (/likelihood) of something coming out just when they’re on the cusp of achieving greatness.

It transpires that Michael Gove snorted coke a number of times at a number of parties when he was a journalist. He “deeply regrets” having done this, and is currently doing penance on hands and knees along the corridors of Westminster in the hope of persuading his colleagues that his repentance is profound and that they might forgive him.

Rory Stewart smoked opium in Iran, which he, too, deeply regrets. Jeremy Hunt once had an encounter with pot: “I think I had a cannabis lassi when I went backpacking through India,” he said. Dominic Raab also did weed: “At university, I tried cannabis, not very often as I was into sport.” Andrea Leadsom confessed: “I smoked weed at university and have never smoked it since.” Esther McVey smoked weed, but stresses: “I haven’t taken any cocaine like Michael Gove has.” And Matt Hancock also smoked weed and also wishes to stress he has never done opium or coke or anything really nasty like that like Michael Gove has.

Sajid Javid has never touched them; nor has Mark Harper. A Muslim and a Roman Catholic, they’ve always been good boys.

And then there’s Boris. He has not done any drugs at all “to his knowledge”. Apparently he once tried to snort cocaine, without success (if that’s the word). He recounts: “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 given icing sugar.”

One suspects there’s rather more to explore there.

But for the time being, it is Michael Gove whose campaign to become PM is being derailed. All of these drugs are illegal; all of these prospective PMs broke the law, but only Michael Gove is being mercilessly interrogated, especially by Baroness Warsi:

David Cameron smoked pot at Eton and Oxford. Smoking cannabis is, of course, a crime, but Cameron appointed Sayeeda Warsi to the House of Lords. Funny, isn’t it, how her crusade for moral-lawful purity coincides with the rise of Michael Gove. Seven out of the 11 Tory leadership candidates have admitted doing drugs, all of which are illegal, so why is Baroness Warsi singling out just one? Might it have anything to do with her longstanding antipathy toward him for his ‘robust’ views on Islamism?

Cathy Newman didn’t probe that, of course.

Nor did she ask the Baroness why trespassing on a farmer’s field and destroying his crops of wheat didn’t disqualify Theresa May from holding the top job. Isn’t damaging someone else’s property a crime?

And then there’s a bishop:

Bishop Graham Kings has never done anything in his life which might prevent him from holding the office of a bishop: he has walked with God since he was an embryo; his life has been spotless; he will be the first person since Enoch to be taken up directly to heaven without having to suffer the indignity of death. For Bishop Graham, snorting cocaine is worse than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: the sin is irredeemable. He thanks God daily that he is not a sinner like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

But especially Michael Gove, because Boris Johnson only tried it once and sneezed it all out. And it might have been icing sugar.

But why the focus on drugs? What about deceit, lies, betrayal, lust, infidelity…? Matthew Parris writes in The Times on his good friend Boris Johnson:

If candidates for PM now have to pass a legal-moral Test Act to establish their worthiness for the job, what about their other vices and sins?

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9f).

Okay, we’re talking about eternal salvation here, not a transient political position for a here-today-gone-tomorrow politician, but doesn’t a candidate’s fornication and adultery tell you rather more about them than their coke-snorting or pot-smoking? Or do we dwell on drugs because they remain illegal while sexual behaviour is now deemed to be a matter for the private individual? Should we just legalise drugs? Would that change people’s perceptions of the Tory leadership candidates? Why does a confession of smoking opium make Rory Stewart seem cool and isn’t affecting his campaign at all, while cocaine snorting is doing serious damage to Michael Gove’s campaign? Are we more tolerant if the vice-sin was committed in a more exotic region? Why isn’t smoking pot or snorting coke a private matter, like smoking tobacco or downing 10 pints of Stella followed by a few shots of tequila? Is it because coke and weed ruin other people’s lives?

Doesn’t alcohol?

There is no end to the fascination with other people’s vices and sins, especially if they constitute a crime.

And there is no end to gleefully pointing out other people’s hypocrisy.

What happened to ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged‘?

Perhaps it might help if a few people looked in the mirror before casting stones. Far better to have an effectual, radical, visionary PM who did a few lines of coke decades ago, than an incapable, unproductive, visionless one who ran through fields of wheat. How do people think Benjamin Disraeli busied himself on his frequent ‘exotic’ trips to the oriental regions?