The fraternity between politicians and businessmen is where real perversion lies
Published 22/09/2015 | 02:30
The only political story anyone cared about yesterday was an allegation that British Prime Minister David Cameron engaged in a sex act with a pig during his student days.
Dubbed the Prosciutto Affair and Bae of Pigs on social media, the claim was made in an unauthorised biography of Cameron penned by disgruntled billionaire tax exile, and former Tory donor Lord Michael Ashcroft.
As part of an initiation ceremony for a "notorious dining society" at Oxford University, Ashcroft alleged that Cameron had "inserted part of his private anatomy" into a dead pig's mouth.
The pig's head, in case you were wondering, was resting on the lap of another student at the time.
It should be noted that Downing Street has refused to comment on the bizarre allegation, saying it "would not dignify" the story with a response, while Ashcroft is hardly the most impartial of authors having conceded that he has an axe to grind with Cameron and has no actual proof the hog-roast took place.
Having funnelled £8m into the Conservative Party, the author assumed he had bought himself a senior position in the last government and was miffed to merely be offered a junior role. The revelations in the book, which have been serialised in 'The Daily Mail', appear to be some kind of elaborate revenge.
However, none of that mattered yesterday, when a grisly mental image of Mr Cameron and his alleged porcine sexploits was burned into the brains of anyone who read the story.
A picture of a grinning Cameron cradling a pig in his arms, taken a number of years ago but now serving as a convenient double entendre, didn't help matters.
Social media exploded in paroxysms of delight as a thousand pig puns were born and photo-shopped images of 'Hameron' on the phone to an alarmed looking Peppa Pig were endlessly retweeted. Some politicians even piled on, with Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron tweeting he had "never been more pleased to be a vegetarian".
Perhaps the most amusing part of the entire debacle was the chorus of staunch Conservatives who argued that, even if the story were true, it was no big deal because it was just an example of high jinks in college. Now, I don't know what kind of alleged depravity they engaged in at university, but sex acts with animal heads were definitely not the norm among my student friends.
When all the mirth finally dies down, the unedifying episode can teach us something important about political reporting and people in positions of power.
Largely overlooked in the delirium of schadenfreude online was that we have arguably already heard a lot worse about clubs that Cameron was a member of as a student, but it hasn't harmed his career at all.
Another Oxford secret society was a drinking fraternity called the Bullingdon Club, where initiation for wealthy members - who wore bespoke tuxedos at their shindigs - allegedly involved setting fire to a £50 note in front of a homeless person. The drinking parties themselves, according to one former member, "involved getting drunk and standing on restaurant tables shouting about "f***ing plebs".
Psychologists argue this kind of obnoxious behaviour in fraternities, and the odious initiation rites upon which membership depends, is more than mere testosterone-fuelled bravado and forges bonds that last a lifetime.
The debased nature of the initial hazing, in which putative members are routinely humiliated or together commit delinquent acts, creates a blind loyalty to these societies, which harbour their darkest secrets.
Once initiated in these groups, members' fates are aligned, perpetuating these networks, as the confidences they share about one another are so potentially damaging as to make defection or betrayal too personally costly to contemplate.
In the context of fraternities for an elite in Oxbridge - who go on to exalted positions in the political and business world - these ties can make or break stellar careers, often leading to unhealthy, but symbiotic, relationships developing between the political and business worlds.
If politicians don't react favourably to lobbying from their erstwhile friends in a college fraternity, then revenge can swiftly be dispensed by the leaking of embarrassing information .
While the only evidence that Cameron disgraced himself with a dead pig is the whispered accusations of an anonymous source, there is plenty of evidence his accuser is a bitter crank intent on destroying his career because he refused to reward his financial support of the party with a position in government.
The biggest scandal in Pig Gate is not that Cameron may have made a fool of himself in college, but that a senior Tory and tax exile thought he could buy a seat in government and opted to wreak maximum personal damage on Cameron when his ambition was thwarted.
The fact Ashcroft himself has no qualms about admitting he felt his money entitled him to a job, and seems to view his grievance as entirely legitimate and reasonable, indicates just how blatantly perverse the nexus between politics and business has become.
Ashcroft's accusations about the pig are undoubtedly amusing and salacious, but are ultimately a sideshow designed to titillate and distract from bigger issues.
Questions of power and privilege, and the elite networks that underpin them, should not be ignored in the rush to humiliate Cameron.