Is this the most bizarre leadership campaign ever? Tory hopeful Rory Stewart admits smoking OPIUM5 min read

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Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart apologised today after admitting once smoking the Class A drug opium as the race to replace Theresa May took a bizarre turn.

The International Development Secretary said he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran while travelling 15 years ago. 

He admitted smoking the narcotic – from which heroin is made – during an interview with the Daily Telegraph, saying it ‘had no effect’ on him ‘because I was walking 25-30 miles a day’.

He told the paper: ‘I was invited into the house, the opium pipe was passed around at a wedding. 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.’ 

It came after the 46-year-old continued to be the stand out candidate in the early running in the race to replace Theresa May. 

Appearing on comedian Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast last night he said his new high profile was ‘strange’, adding: ‘I’m doing roughly what I think I’ve been doing for the past nine years and nobody paid any attention at all.’ 

Mr Stewart meeting locals in Wigan during his #RoryWalks tour of the United Kingdom

Mr Stewart meeting locals in Wigan during his #RoryWalks tour of the United Kingdom

Barking in Barking: Mr Stewart wanted to escape the Westminster bubble to see what people on the street were concerned about

Barking in Barking: Mr Stewart wanted to escape the Westminster bubble to see what people on the street were concerned about

His drugs admission came after another rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, told the Sunday Times at the weekend that he a ‘had cannabis lassi’ while ‘backpacking through India’ as a youth.

Opium comes from several species of poppy, with the main growth areas in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in south East Asia. 

Speaking to Sky News today Mr Stewart said he ‘went on in Iran to see the damage that opium was doing to communities’.

He said: ‘I’ve seen it as a prisons minister – it is something that was very wrong.

‘I made a stupid mistake. I was at a wedding in a large community meeting. 

‘Somebody passed this pipe around the room and I smoked it.

‘I shouldn’t have done it, I was wrong.’  

It's less strong than opium: Rory stops for coffee with locals in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

It’s less strong than opium: Rory stops for coffee with locals in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

Mr Stewart told Sky News he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran 15 years ago

Mr Stewart told Sky News he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran 15 years ago

Opium comes from several species of poppy, with the main growth areas in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in south East Asia

Opium comes from several species of poppy, with the main growth areas in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in south East Asia

Mr Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Borders in Cumbria, has leapt from relative obscurity to become one of the early high profile candidates.

He has conducted a social media-heavy campaign during his #RoryWalks tour of various parts of the UK, including east London, Warrington and Wigan, to talk to normal people. 

The former diplomat, who worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and Afghanistan, has used his language skills,  posting videos of him speaking in languages including Dari, an Afghan dialect of Farsi.

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He has also taken a host of ‘selfies’ – but admitted he faked holding the camera.  

One of his first stops on the walking tour was Lewisham in south east London at the start of the week

One of his first stops on the walking tour was Lewisham in south east London at the start of the week

One of his stops was in Kew Gardens and told his followers he was there for an hour ‘if anyone wants to talk’.

Some viewers joked that they would have loved to but asked him to pay the £18-plus entrance fee.

The DfiD minister was there to promote his department’s work with cocoa farmers around the world – around an hour after extolling the benefits of drinking camel’s milk on Good Morning Britain.

On an extraordinary day of campaigning he also denied claims from Tory rivals he was a ‘suicide bomber’ working to help Michael Gove beat Boris Johnson, saying he is a ‘serious candidate’ and was upset by the metaphor because he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On a visit to the north west he also visited Wigan, the seat of Labour's Lisa Nandy who is pro-Leave

On a visit to the north west he also visited Wigan, the seat of Labour’s Lisa Nandy who is pro-Leave

He met a local Tory council candidate and activists in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

He met a local Tory council candidate and activists in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

He also went to Barking in east London to meet locals and talk to them about the issues they face

He also went to Barking in east London to meet locals and talk to them about the issues they face

The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy to replace Theresa May almost as soon as he was promoted to the Cabinet.

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He stepped up to International Development Secretary earlier this month to replace Ms Mordaunt and days later declared he will run for the Tory leadership.

The Theresa May loyalist praised the PM for her ‘courageous effort’ to pass her Brexit deal but admitted he would throw his hat in the ring when she steps down.

Urging his party not to ‘try to outdo Nigel Farage’, the development secretary has said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.

He also lashed out at Mr Johnson, saying he would not serve under a No Deal-supporting PM. 

The Old Etonian former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex previously worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wales in Afghanistan.

He has also written several books about walking. 

The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married.   

Seen as highly intelligent his staunch Remainer and soft Brexit credentials look likely to count against him in a race set to be dominated by the Brexiteer wing of the party. 

He ranked fifth among members in a poll of Conservative members by the Con Home website. 

But on 6.14 per cent this was well behind favorite Boris Johnson who the choice of a third (33 per cent) of the membership.