Bruised Chuka Umunna has dismissed rumours of a secret scandal in his personal life and insisted: “There are no skeletons”.
The Shadow Business Secretary has been the subject of 48 hours of lurid speculation on social media since his shock exit from the Labour leadership race .
But the MP dubbed “Britain’s Obama” hit back: “I’ve never had anything to hide.”
In an exclusive interview, the former frontrunner declared he was “honest” about his experiences with drugs.
Mr Umunna, 36, also dismissed rumours about his sexuality and suggestions of any financial scandal but admitted running for the top job was “too much, too soon”.
Speaking about his decision on Friday to quit the race to replace Ed Miliband, he said: “There is absolutely no skeleton, no information, scandal or otherwise that caused me to make this decision.
“The reason I made the decision is because of the impact it has had on my own life and, principally, the lives of the loved ones around me.”
Asked if he feared a story involving drugs or his sexuality was about to emerge, Mr Umunna insisted: “No, no, no. When I’ve been asked about drugs I’ve been very open about that and other issues.
“Honestly, there is no revelation or no skeleton. You don’t run for the leadership of a major political party in this country if there is some information you don’t want to get into the public domain.”
In 2012, Mr Umunna admitted he had smoked marijuana when he was a teenager but said he had never used harder drugs.
The politician became the bookies’ favourite for the Labour top job after announcing his decision to run for the leadership in a video message on Tuesday.
But speaking in his Commons office just hours after the U-turn, Mr Umunna admitted he had felt downbeat in the aftermath of Labour’s election defeat.
Mr Umunna said: “I’ve not enjoyed a single day of it. In fact, today has been the most enjoyable day since our defeat and I think that says something.”
The Streatham MP said his decision was based on fears for his family if he became Leader of the Opposition.
He revealed a broadsheet newspaper approached girlfriend Alice Sullivan’s parents and her 97-year-old gran “in the middle of their Sunday” at their home in Gloucestershire last weekend.
And on Thursday night, his mother Patricia returned to her South London home to find a reporter waiting on the doorstep.
Mr Ummuna said the incidents “contributed to a niggling doubt that I’ve always had that this is too much too soon”.
He added: “My heart isn’t in this enough at the moment and I feel I owe it to the party and myself to be honest about that.
“I thought if you are going to leave the stage in terms of this contest, and just strictly this contest, now is the time to do it.”
Confident he would have secured the support of the 35 Labour MPs needed to run for the leadership, former lawyer Mr Umunna said he expected more personal media scrutiny.
But he added: “I didn’t feel comfortable about it, principally because of the effect it was having on my loved ones.”
Responding to claims he “wheeled out” Alice last weekend for the TV cameras, Mr Umunna said: “Had I known what was going to greet us was going to greet us, then obviously I wouldn’t have brought her with me.”
The London-born MP, whose Nigerian father died in a road accident in 1992, added: “I didn’t quite, if I’m honest, envisage such an immediate impact on my family only a week in.”
But he vowed to remain a “full and prominent member” of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet.
Asked if he would run again for Labour leader, Mr Umunna replied: “Am I saying that I would never consider doing it again? No. In parliamentary terms, I’m relatively young. I’ve got a whole career in front of me.”
As Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham emerged as the new favourite for the Labour leadership, Mr Umunna said he would talk to all candidates before deciding who to back.
And after a tumultuous week, did Labour’s rising star expect to find himself already out of the leadership race in such dramatic style?
Slightly wistfully, he replied: “Do you know what I wanted a week ago? I wanted to be the Business Secretary in a Labour Government.”
It seems Chuka Umunna now knows better than anyone the truth of the old cliche – a week is a long time in politics.