School of Politics and International Relations

6 Out of 7 candidates for U.K. Prime Minister admitted to using drugs. Here's why it might not matter

14 June 2019

Ahead of Thursday’s first round of voting to replace Theresa May as U.K. Prime Minister, admissions of past drug use by eight out of the ten candidates on the ballot dominated the front pages of the U.K.’s newspapers. The bizarre start to the leadership race reflects that coming clean on past drug use no longer carries the same political weight it once did. “I think these days, because you can’t really prevent these drug stories from coming out, that honestly is the best policy,” says Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. A bigger issue is what that drug use might show about a candidate’s character. “The damage done by appearing to cover something up, or by being accused of hypocrisy, is greater than the damage done by admitting you’ve done something in your youth,” says Bale. That’s particularly true for candidates aspiring to lead the Conservative Party, which continues to oppose liberalizing tough drug laws.

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