So let us pause for a moment to pity the poor soul who had to call up David Cameron yesterday and tell him that – inter alia – the new biography of him by Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott would allege that he’d once engaged in a bizarre ritual with a dead pig.
So what’s the truth? Only the prime minister and the porker know for sure and neither have commented to date. But in their place we have a host of unofficial denials from ‘party sources’ or ‘friends of Cameron’ and some well-informed scepticism from his Oxford contemporary Toby Young.
However I’m confused by the lack of an official denial. Not from the No 10 civil service press office – that’s not their job – but from the many political advisers who work on Cameron’s media team. I regularly issued statements from No 10 as a ‘spokesman for Gordon Brown’ on matters personal and did so precisely when I needed a denial or clarification to carry extra weight – especially for the benefit of other media outlets considering whether to follow up the story.
If on Sunday night – when details first emerged from the Daily Mail serialisation – a spokesman for Cameron had issued an official statement saying: ‘This disgusting story is a complete and utter fabrication and casts huge doubt on the credibility of all the other allegations in this book’ it would have been pretty devastating for the Mail and for Ashcroft and would have deterred other newspapers from repeating either the pig story or the book’s many other revelations.
Indeed the first thing you do as a spin doctor when a book is serialised about your boss or your party is to look for one howling error that you can highlight to discredit all the other accurate things the author has written – and suggest they’ve been relying on sources inclined to make things up.
So why no official denial in this case?
What’s the difference between Piers Gaveston and the Bullingdon Club?
The Bullingdon Club is the other drinking society Cameron was known to be a member of. Most of the sonorous members of the Bullingdon are old Etonians. The prime minister was one such member as were the London mayor Boris Johnson and the chancellor George Osborne.
They wore a bespoke uniform of tailcoats waistcoats and bow ties which could cost thousands of pounds making membership difficult for ordinary students. One MP who was once asked to join the club said he walked out of a gathering in disgust.
‘What it basically involved was getting drunk and standing on restaurant tables shouting about ‘f***ing plebs’.
It was all about despising poor people’.
(ed:..the funniest thing (so-far!) on pig-gate…)