Mr Gove made the confession ahead of a publication of a book about him by journalist Owen Bennett. The book “Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry” makes the claim that he owned up to use of the Class A substance when put through his paces by advisors during the last leadership contest in 2016. The Environment Secretary told The Daily Mail: “The book is correct, I did take drugs. It is something I deeply regret. Drugs damage lives. They are dangerous and it was a mistake.
“I took drugs on several occasions at social events more than 20 years ago. At the time I was a young journalist. I look back and I think, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
Mr Gove said he does not believe “past mistakes disqualify you” but admitted, “obviously it will be for my colleagues in Parliament and members of the Conservative Party to decide now if I should be leader.”
The book claims after his admission to advisors: “Gove was instructed not to give that answer in public, and told to fall back on the words David Cameron had used when he was running for leader, namely that politicians are entitled to a private life before entering politics.”
Mr Gove was never asked the question during the campaign but was eliminated in the second round.
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Bookies favourite Boris Johnson had also admitted cocaine use in the run-up to the 2008 London Mayoral election, which he won.
The candidacy of International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has seen the MP admit to smoking opium in Iran.
The book also claimed Mr Gove felt the did a “public service” after accusations he stabbed Mr Johnson in the back by running in the 2016 leadership race and splitting the Brexiteer vote.
The former Foreign Secretary did not run as a result.
The book also reported ill will between Mr Gove and the man he was running to replace, David Cameron.
Mr Gove felt “duty bound” to back Brexit in order to not be seen as a “stooge” of Mr Cameron who viewed him as a “court jester”.
The former Prime Minister is said to consider Mr Gove “dead to me” due to perceiving Mr Gove as committing betrayal during the run-up to the referendum.
The other candidates in the running are currently are Sam Gyimah, Matt Hancock, Mark Harper, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Dominic Raab.
Rumours from Westminster have suggested Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt is set to launch a bid for No 10 as well.
With Theresa May having formally resigned as party leader, nominations are open until 5pm on Monday.
Mrs May will remain as Prime Minister and acting Tory leader until her replacement is chosen.
Thursday will see the first ballot amongst Tory MPs with candidates needing 5 percent or 16 votes to remain in the running.
Subsequent ballots will be held on June 18, 19 and 20 with candidates requiring 32 votes or 10 percent to stay in contention.
Should all candidates reach this target, the one with the lowest tally will be eliminated.
This continues until just two MPs remain.
Figures within the party expect the final two will be Mr Gove and Mr Johnson.
A ballot of the more than 160,000 party members will be conducted over the following weeks with the winner expected to be announced on the week beginning July 22.