I couldn’t care less if Michael Gove took cocaine. Can he do the job or not?

Could Michael Gove be our next PM? Picture: Ben Birchall

Could Michael Gove be our next PM? Picture: Ben Birchall - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Every political race descends into scandal and suddenly that's all anybody is talking about. This is where we go wrong, argues Liz Nice

Soon there will be a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

This is actually a very important matter as our country sits on the cusp of one of the biggest moments in its history.

What we need is someone calm, unifying, decisive, confident, able to hold their own in Europe.

Someone with a strong voice who can bring the people with them, whichever side of the Brexit fence they sit.

We don't want an autocrat, but nor do we want someone ineffectual.

We want someone who knows what they think and says so, so that we always know where we are, whether we agree with them or not.

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We want someone who can fix problems, rather than creating more of their own.

Which of the candidates is that then?

Frankly, as yet, we don't know.

Here's what we do know.

We know that Michael Gove, many years ago, took cocaine.

How this helps us to decide whether he is the kind of person who should lead the country through Brexit and beyond is anybody's guess.

If we honestly believe that there is a single person in the leadership race without a skeleton in their closet, we are living in cuckoo land.

Everybody has done stuff they would rather other people didn't know about.

How ludicrous to suggest otherwise!

The unedifying spectacle of Gove actually having to justify to Andrew Marr on Sunday something he did in the far distant past when he was in a different place and in a different life just shows us exactly where we are going wrong with politics and the media in this country.

We focus too much on the person and their human frailties (which we all share, one way or another) and not enough on what they actually believe and how competent they are.

I couldn't care less that Gove took cocaine years ago.

He might even have had sex with someone he shouldn't or once parked on a double yellow line.

So what?

All I want to know is: can he lead the country through Brexit? What are his policies? Is he still as arrogant as he was when he was Education Secretary, trying to create an education system fashioned in his own image as if all we had ever longed for was a generation of Michael Goves?

Is he as disloyal and unreliable as he seemed during the last Conservative leadership contest when he was going to support Boris Johnson but then turned around and decided to run for leadership himself?

The current debate about his past will tell us none of the things we need to know.

Ask any man on the street what Gove believes and the answer now will be, 'Oh, he likes a bit of Charlie.'

Well, we are making a proper Charlie of our political process as long as we carry on obsessing over small wrongdoings that people did years ago, rather than focusing no what they can offer in the here and now.

Churchill had crippling depression. Did it stop him doing what needed to be done when the moment came?

Will Boris' complicated love life stop him from being able to handle the big questions and the big moments when they arrive?

There is work and there is life.

Some people are hugely competent in the former but a complete disaster in the latter and vice versa.

Few people are a master of both.

We need someone who is good at their job now. That's it.

The past counts for nothing.

This is about the future. If I had a vote in this, it would not be for the person wittering on about what has gone before, but for the one who can tell me how it is going to be from now on.

I wait to hear from them.

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