You can imagine the Daily Express editor’s thoughts as he tasked Tom Parfit with writing this story.
“Wait: aren’t we smearing that Corbyn chap? But… THIS IS TOO GOOD. It may not be true… but it’s TOO GOOD NOT TO PRINT. Especially as we have so many photos of David Cameron cuddling pigs! SO MANY. Of David Cameron. CUDDLING PIGS.”
(Helpful subordinate: “Also there was that story a couple of years ago about Cameron getting pig semen from China!” – Daily Express editor “No, that was no relation.”)
The story is that during an “initiation ritual” for the Piers Gaveston Society (which David Cameron joined while he was reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford, between 1985 and 1988) the to-be-Prime Minister put a “private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a pig.
The pig would have been dead and decapitated at the time, of course.
The story, as allegedly told to Lord Ashcroft by “a contemporary of Mr Cameron who went on to become an MP” is that pig’s head was on the lap of another member of the Piers Gaveston Society; this other MP apparently claims also that another member of the Piers Gaveston Society has a photograph, of the young David Cameron, allegedly putting his penis into an alleged dead pig.
But Isabel Oakeshott and Lord Ashcroft, co-authors of Call Me Dave, got no response from the former member of the Piers Gaveston Society who is alleged to own a photo of the alleged pig-Cam incident.
Lord Ashcroft concedes that this may be a case of mistaken identity.
“Yet it is an elaborate story for an otherwise credible figure to invent. Furthermore, there are a number of accounts of pigs’ heads at debauched parties in Cameron’s day.”
It would also be proper to point out that Lord Ashcroft’s irritation with David Cameron for preferring an Australian political strategist’s advice to his own, can only have increased when that Australian strategist’s advice won the Conservative Party a majority, after years of Ashcroft polls predicting that the Tories would, at best, be able to form a minority government. But I’m sure this has nothing to do with this story. Well, nearly sure.
If the story calls to mind an episode of Black Mirror called “National Anthem”, that’s got to be just coincidence. Cameron is supposed to have done this as an initiation ritual to get to join “the coolest club in town”, not to rescue a princess.
— Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) September 20, 2015
So which is the coolest club in town now?
Most agree it’s the Piers Gaveston Society, whose past members include Hugh Grant and Tom Parker Bowles. Their summer ball in the last week of Trinity term is the most sought-after ticket in town – not that it’s held in Oxford. They’re too smart for that, and they don’t want anyone turning up uninvited. ‘Everyone secretly longs to be invited to the Piers Gav, because it’s exclusive, regardless of what they might say,’ confirms one alumnus of University College. ‘It’s basically a very well-organised orgy.
The Gav is theoretically men-only, and slightly camp – it’s named after Edward II’s lover and its motto is Fane non memini ne audisse unum alterum ita dilixisse, or ‘Truly, none remember hearing of a man enjoying another so much’. The joke is it was only founded in 1977. The 12 members, a self-selecting group of good-looking former public-school boys, each invite 20 guests to the ball, ideally the most beautiful girls at Oxford. Plenty of rumpy in the bushes ensues. For last summer’s debauch, guests were given only 72 hours’ notice with a stiffie in their pidge (pigeonhole) and told to present themselves at a hired coach, which drove them deep into the countryside. Phones and cameras were confiscated and the location kept secret. Guests arrived to find a live sex show on a stage and a decadent dance tent.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
One might say that David Cameron has a Napoleon complex, that this story will just Snowball, that someone must be a Squealer, or even that this is Old but not Major. A Downing Street spokesman refused to comment when contacted by the Express. Of course they did: only silence will save Cameron’s bacon.
But, and this is much more important than Animal Farm puns or pulled pork jokes: a smutty story told to Lord Ashcroft about events of thirty years ago doesn’t constitute a confirmed fact.
If it is true, the interesting part about it is not Cameron porking a dead pig, but who knew about it in thirty years since then, and who holds the photograph that Cameron would provide anything not to have published? Eleven former public-school boys who belonged to this drinking-club back then know if it’s true. If it’s true, they own David Cameron’s career, and furthermore, they always did.
But it’s the Express and the Daily Mail who are willing to publish this story, which confirms them as clickbait rather than newspapers. Unless the photo surfaces – and I very much doubt that any photo ever will – it remains a story against Cameron told to Ashcroft that Ashcroft found worth repeating, even though he couldn’t prove a word of it was true. (The Telegraph’s gentlemanly review of the book by Peter Dominiczak, the Political Editor, glosses the pig’s head as “the Tory peer accused the Prime Minister of being a member of a debauched Oxford University society” and goes into more detail about why Ashcroft and Cameron are at odds.)
But I suspect that had the Conservative Party Press Office had the slightest inkling that this was going to be breaking news someday, they wouldn’t ever have tweeted this:
Great news for UK farming with new China £50m pig meat export trade deal. Defra pushing hard for more. http://t.co/Hz0pX1i2
— CCHQ Press Office (@CCHQPress) May 18, 2012