Politics of the pigsty
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We can all remember what we were doing, can’t we, when we all found out that UK prime minister David Cameron might have had sex with a pig. It was a monday morning, and we were all getting up and thinking about the five days of work ahead of us, how we would have to leave the house soon to get the bus and how awful that would be, and how the Tories’ attack on tax credits would condemn thousands of families to an even greater level of poverty. Those ideas were all going round and round in our heads, as they do every single Monday morning, the five days of work, the bus, the tax credits, and then we looked at Facebook.
Our brains understood faster than we did as they saw those words: “Cameron”, “pig’s head” and “anatomy”. We all knew what had happened. Or did we?
As with theories that George W Bush orchestrated the attacks on 9/11, with Cameron and the pig’s head it’s not so much that we don’t think he’d do it, it’s just that there is very little reliable evidence proving that he did. But while everyone afforded themselves a well-deserve laugh at our leader’s expense, there were several other deeper, more sinister issues lurking beneath the bacon. (Incidentally, that was the only pig-related pun, if you can call it that, you’ll find in this article. It was done as an act of convention, but now I’ve met my quota).
The accusations are contained in the book Call Me Dave by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott. Lord Ashcroft was big pals with Cameron for some time: Ashcroft liked the potential of becoming a senior government minister, and Cameron liked getting large donations from Ashcroft. It was a match made in heaven. But then Cameron, for whatever reason (possibly over the theft of a pig’s head, we just don’t know), decided not to make Ashcroft a senior government minister after all, despite the £10 million Ashcroft had stuffed into the party coffers. Lord Ashcroft then stopped supporting the Tories, two years ago, probably feeling that the years of selfless donations had gone unnoticed. It was a sorry day for plutocracy.
The accusations in the book are based on statements by an anonymous MP, whose strongest piece of evidence seems to be that they have a photo of someone who might be a young David Cameron performing the act, and that they even know the size of the photo. That sort of thing would rarely make it by a publisher because, unless the photo turns up (at the very least), that’s pretty much an invitation to have the pants sued off yourselves. But, then again, Ashcroft has the money to ward off any challenge for libel, and anyway he surely knew that a sitting prime minister was less than likely to discuss whether or not he had sex with a dead pig in open court.
The Guardian and others tried to steer the story towards the damaging accusations that Cameron publicly lied about Ashcroft’s tax status. But the reaction to that, in most places, was a bit like the reaction a teacher would get from their class when trying to ask a question about trigonometry immediately after Freddie at the back made a loud farty noise with his hands. No one is going to be able to concentrate on anything else for days afterwards.
But it is a topic we should try our best to look at more critically. The real story here is about a man, Lord Ashcroft, former treasurer and then party chairman for the Conservatives, who seems so assured of his entitlement that printing rumours about his former friend in a thinly veiled act of revenge is apparently, to him, entirely justified in that context. Ashcroft made his money through lobbying for government sell-offs of cleaning and catering in the health and education sectors, before securing a huge number of contracts for his own company, selling his businesses and moving to the tax-haven of Belize with his winnings. His buy-up of cleaning contacts in the NHS led to a race to the bottom, with a 45 per cent drop in cleaners between 1984 and 2005. And they wonder why our hospitals are dirty?
It’s funny to laugh about Cameron f***ing a pig. The man whose government regularly stops life-saving benefits to the unemployed and sick on the basis of a lack of evidence for looking for work or the severity of their medical condition is now being made fun of in every school playground, pub and workplace in the country because he can’t prove that he didn’t, indeed, insert “a private part of his anatomy” into a pig’s head while at a posh party in Oxford.
But jokes aside, this tells us more about a section of the political class that are quite happy to get rich off public services, dodge tax and then try to pay their way into power. There are plenty of more scandalous, yet less amusing, charges to level at Cameron and his government, from plunging half a million children into poverty since 2010, to his close dealings with Saudi “If Islamic State really was a state” Arabia, to his dehumanisation of desperate refugees trying to enter the UK.
I mean, literally everything else he has done is more of a scandal than a rumour about him and a dead pig.
The obvious reading here is Call Me Dave itself. But for a more detailed argument on the nature of Cameron, from the other end of the political spectrum, there is Richard Seymour’s The Meaning of David Cameron, which looked into the politics of Cameronism at the start of his premiership.