Did David Cameron, Britain's excruciatingly reasonable prime minister, commit an unspeakable act when he was a student at Oxford?
I don't mean Mr. Cameron's alleged inhalation of pot while listening to Supertramp, a rite of passage comparable to President Obama's years in the Choom Wagon. Nor do I refer to Cameron's notorious membership in the Bullingdon Club, the elite, all-male boozers who, since that exuberant evening in 1894 when they smashed over four hundred windows at Christ Church College, are banned from meeting within fifteen miles of Oxford. I refer of course to a depravity so vile as to be beyond the imagination of Bill Clinton.
According to a new biography, Call Me Dave, one night in the late eighties, Cameron joined an even more elite all-male boozers' club, the Piers Gaveston Society. Here, a short historical digression is required. The real Piers Gaveston was the favorite, and possibly the lover too, of King Edward II. The king's partiality for Gaveston was so extravagant that the barons, jealous of royal patronage, prepared for civil war, before realizing that it was easier to have Gaveston decapitated. Edward II may have come to a sticky end, too: according to his chroniclers, he was murdered by the medieval equivalent of lethal injection, the insertion of a red-hot poker.
The Piers Gaveston Society was founded by a bunch of posh delinquents at Oxford in 1977. With the economy falling apart, and unemployment rising to levels not seen since the Depression, a dozen of these well-bred louts thought they would rub the plebs' noses in the dirt, by founding a private club devoted to drink, drugs, and sex. Their motto, Fane non memine ne audisse unum alterum ita dilixisse, means "Truly, none remembering hearing of a man enjoying another so much"–an allusion to the original Piers Gaveston, and to the boarding-school high jinks that the club enjoyed so much.
Cameron's "outrageous initiation ceremony" is alleged to have included the insertion–and here I quote directly–of "a private part of his anatomy" into a pig's mouth. Mr. Cameron's porcine collaborator was not alive at the time. Nor was the pig's head attached to its body. It was resting on the lap of a Piers Gaveston member, as it were.
The author of Call Me Dave, Michael Ashcroft, used to be Mr. Cameron's friend. He used to be the treasurer of Mr. Cameron's party too, as well as its biggest donor. When Cameron put together his 2010 coalition, he excluded Ashcroft from a senior role in government despite, according to the rumors, having promised Ashcroft a reward. As a tax exile and Britain's 37th richest man, Ashcroft might not have been austerity material.
Ashcroft has admitted that he is out for revenge. So, we must assume is the Daily Mail, the staunchly conservative (and Conservative) newspaper which has serialized the story under the headline "Revenge! Drugs, debauchery, and the book that lays Dave bare." But why a pig?
Ashcroft claims that he heard this story from a "distinguished Oxford contemporary" of Cameron's, who later became an MP. Ashcroft's informant claims to have seen a photograph of the incident. No photograph has yet appeared. Meanwhile, as the initial shock wore off, which only took about two hours, British journalists noticed the resemblance between Ashcroft's allegations and two stories, one apocryphal but quite possibly true, the other completely fictional.
In Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, we read of Lyndon Johnson ordering his aides to spread the rumor that a rival politician had "carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows." Not that it was true. Simply airing the accusation would damage his rival's reputation. "Let's make the son-of-a-bitch deny it," Johnson is supposed to have said.
Cameron is now suffering this sort of humiliation. At yesterday's press conference, his spokesmen impersonated a dignified refusal to comment. Meanwhile sniggering journalists asked questions about one of Mr. Cameron's trade deals. You know, the one from 2013, when the Chinese agreed to buy £46m of top-quality British pig semen.
The completely fictional precedent appeared in 2011, in a dystopian television named Black Mirror. In one episode, " National Anthem," a princess is kidnapped. To secure her release, the prime minister consents to have sex with a pig on live television. The creator of this delicacy, Charlie Brooker, insists that he contrived this scene from his own imagination, without ever hearing of any stories about Mr. Cameron.