NEWS
30/05/2019 18:51 BST | Updated 31/05/2019 17:33 BST

Smoking Opium, Dismissing Feminism And Trolling Scotland: 24 Hours In The Tory Leadership Race

Politics in 2019, folks.

The battle to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister is in full swing, with around 4,000 Tories throwing their hat into the ring (actually, it’s only double figures but feels like many more).

In an effort to win enough Conservative grassroots support in the leadership election, would-be Tory PMs are doing the media rounds. And, boy, has the last 24 hours been wild.

Here are just some of the opinions, positions and confessions from the campaign trail in the last day.

‘I regret smoking opium in Iran’

Rory Stewart has had a good war. Seen as an outside bet, the International Development Secretary has taken social media by storm...his omnipotence causing some to suggest he might appear in your kitchen next.

But it was in an interview with traditional media where he made a comment that raised eyebrows, admitting to The Telegraph that he smoked opium in Iran.

Stewart, previously served as a governor in Iraq during the Iraq war, said that the opium “had no effect” on him “because I was walking 25-30 miles a day”.

“I was invited into the house, the opium pipe was passed around at a wedding,” he told the newspaper.

“I thought - this is going be a very strange afternoon to walk - but it may be that the family was so poor they put very little opium in the pipe.”

When asked about the opium on Sky News, Stewart admitted that it was against the law in the country at the time when he took it.

“I think it was a very stupid mistake and I did it 15 years ago, and I actually went on in Iran to see the damage that opium was doing to communities,” Stewart said.

“I’ve seen it as a Prisons Minister. It was something that was very wrong, I made a stupid mistake.

“I was at a wedding in a large community meeting and somebody passed this pipe around the room and I smoked it - I shouldn’t have done, I was wrong.”

It’s a long way from Bill Clinton admitting he smoked cannabis but did not inhale.

‘I’m probably not a feminist’

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary, is viewed as perhaps the most serious challenger to Boris Johnson, who was quickly installed as the runaway favourite by the bookies.

Perhaps with one eye on the need to court to small ‘c’ conservative activists that make up the majority of the party’s membership, Raab told ITV News that he was “probably not” a feminist.

The staunch Brexiteer was challenged over a 2011 comment that some feminists are “obnoxious bigots”, and responded: “The point I was making is that sexism is wrong and it’s wrong if it’s said about a woman or about a man and I think equality is too precious a value for us to put up with double standards.

“I do think we should call hypocrisy out in political debate and political life.”

Asked whether he would describe himself as a feminist he said: “No, probably not.

“But I would describe myself as someone who’s a champion of equality and meritocracy.”

Throw way back to 2014, and leaders of Britain’s three main political parties were falling over themselves to declare their allegiance - with Labour’s Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats both sporting the Fawcett Society’s ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirts.

‘The final say is with the parents on LGBT lessons’

Esther McVey, another Brexiteer and the former Work and Pensions Secretary, weighed in to the row over LGBT lessons being taught in primary schools, arguing that parents should have the right to remove their children from the classroom.

The controversial debate has been prompted by parents at Anderton Primary School in Birmingham protesting and being at loggerheads with teachers and the local education authority. 

They claim that children aged four and five are too young to be taught about same-sex relationships. 

And McVey appeared to back them up, telling Sky News: “I’m very clear, the final say is with the parents.

“And if parents want to take their young children, at a primary school, out of certain forms of sex education, relationship education, then that is down to them.” 

McVey’s comments were seized on by fellow Tory Justine Greening, with the former Education Secretary telling her colleague: “You can’t pick and choose on human rights and equality. 

“Children should understand a modern and diverse Britain they’re growing up in.” 

‘I won’t allow a second Scottish independence referendum’

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Sajid Javid appears to be getting trolled by much of Scotland.

After legislation was published in Holyrood for a second independence vote,  Javid tweeted: “If I become PM, I won’t allow a second Scottish independence referendum.

“People stated views clearly in 2014, so there should be no second vote. Nicola Sturgeon should spend more time improving public services in Scotland, and less time grandstanding.”

It went down like a bucket of cold sick on social media, with the #PermissionfromSajid hashtag soon trending. People were asking for his endorsement for almost everything ...