Former Tory chair urges Michael Gove to quit leadership campaign amid row over cocaine use
A former co-chair of the Conservative Party has called on Michael Gove quit the Tory leadership campaign amid a row over his use of cocaine.
Baroness Warsi said it was "completely inappropriate" for Mr Gove to stay in the race to become the next Prime Minister.
The Environment Secretary will present himself as the "serious" alternative to frontrunner Boris Johnson as he launches his campaign in Westminster on Monday.
But Mr Gove, who this weekend admitted he was “fortunate” not to have been jailed for taking the Class A drug more than two decades ago, is facing mounting criticism from Tory colleagues.
Baroness Warsi told Channel 4 News: "This case isn’t just about drug taking, it is about trust.
"It is about hypocrisy of the highest order and it cannot be that we have somebody who is now mired in this issue of trust and hypocrisy feel that it is still appropriate for him to stand as leader of the Conservative Party and a Prime Minister of this country."
At his campaign launch, Mr Gove will take a swipe at Boris Johnson by saying the crisis facing the UK means it is time for "a serious leader".
"This moment - right here, right now - is a serious time in the life of our nation," he will say.
"And it requires a serious leader. The stakes have never been higher, the consequences have rarely been greater.
"We need a leader ready to lead from day one. A leader ready to be Prime Minister from day one. A leader ready to face the scrutiny of the studio lights."
Mr Gove's campaign launch comes after leadership rival Sajid Javid launched a thinly-veiled attack on his fellow contender.
Although he did not mention Mr Gove by name, the Home Secretary told Sky's Sophy Ridge: "It doesn't matter whether you're middle class or not, anyone that takes class A drugs, needs to think about the supply chain...
"They have organic food, they boast about climate change, they talk about the environment, and at the same time, come Friday or Saturday night, they are ordering class A drugs."
But former Home Office minister Sarah Newton leapt to Mr Gove's defence over the revelation that the Cabinet minister took cocaine on several occasions when he was working as a journalist in his 30s.
Sarah Newton told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "Are we honestly saying there’s no room in Parliament for people who made mistakes for which they sincerely regret those decisions and are honest about it, so that they can move on and make that contribution?"
And she added: "What matters is that he’s been honest about it and hasn’t tried to cover it up and I think it’s really important that politicians are able to have a life before politics."
Mr Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday that he "deeply" regretted using cocaine as he made the case for a second chance.
He said: “I believe every life is precious and that everyone has worth and that whatever people have done in the past, we should look for the treasure in the heart of every one man, and give every one the chance to make a contribution.”