Cameron, the pig and Lord Ashcroft’s revenge

A rumour unleashed by Lord Ashcroft concerning David Cameron's activities while at Oxford unravelled this week.

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Rumours concerning David Cameron has proved unfounded

Sensational claims that Prime Minister David Cameron once had intimate relations with a pig's head in a bizarre initiation ritual for the Piers Gaveston Society while at Oxford University unravelled this week, after the authors of a new biography admitted they had failed to corroborate the story.

Call Me Dave, co-authored by Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer, and the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, also contains allegations about Cameron's awareness of Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status in 2009 (he previously said he didn't know until 2010). Oakeshott denied the book was a "revenge job" for Lord Ashcroft's disappointment at not receiving a promised ministerial job, says Sam Coates in The Times, noting it would have been far more damaging to have released the book in the run-up to the general election.

Nonetheless, this "smacks of pique, not journalism", says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. As for whether the pig story is true, "having met the sort, he just doesn't seem the sort". Downing Street has remained tight-lipped, and Cameron said he will "not dignify" the allegation with a response. Ashcroft himself admitsin the book that he has a personal "beef" with Cameron for not giving him a role in the coalition, despite "putting his neck on the line" for nearly ten years as Tory party treasurer and deputy chairman, and donating around £8m to the party.

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He says the source of the pig anecdote is well placed, adding that it is "an elaborate story for an otherwise credible figure to invent", reports The Spectator's Steerpike blog. Yet "could the source simply be well versed in the writing of Hunter S Thompson"? In his book on the 1972 US presidential campaign, Thompson writes of an old political trick employed by Lyndon Johnson. On one campaign in Texas, he instructed his campaign manager to start an untrue "rumour campaign" about his rival's habit of being a "pig f***er" simply in order to force him to deny it.

The accusation of impropriety in giving Ashcroft a peerage, apparently knowing he was a non-dom, is the more serious story, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. British politics itself is on trial. "It cannot be right in a modern democracy for seats in its parliament to be such blatant rewards for donations."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.