Hard News by Russell Brown


On youthful indiscretions

There are a number of things to bear in mind regarding the story about British Prime Minister David Cameron putting his thing in a pig. The first is that the claim has been published as an open act of political revenge and publicised by a newspaper whose beef with Cameron is essentially that he is not hateful enough.

Although he insists that he was not motivated by vengeance, the co-author of the the very unofficial biography Call Me Dave, the billionaire Lord Ashcroft is clearly vexed by his inability to buy himself a good ministerial post, confirming as much in his introduction to the book:

Ashcroft wrote that he had a personal “beef” with Cameron because he had not given him a role in the coalition, claiming that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, had blocked it. Cameron later reconsidered and offered Ashcroft a job as a junior whip in the Foreign Office.

Ashcroft wrote: “After putting my neck on the line for nearly 10 years – both as party treasurer under William Hague and as deputy chairman – and after ploughing some £8m into the party, I regarded this as a declinable offer. It would have been better had Cameron offered me nothing at all.”

And the book is being serialised by the Daily Mail because of course it is:

One rival newspaper executive described the serialisation and timing as a “declaration of war” by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, on Cameron, who he believes is too soft on serious issues such as immigration and Europe.

Even though the claim is thinly-sourced and malciously intended, it's only human to respond with porcine puns (it's pretty hard to leave "The Prosciutto Affair" on the table) and it's not like this is one where many of us are going to say "didn't we all do that when we were young and stupid?" The claim that the revolting arses in Cameron's Oxford toff club required initiates to burn a £50 note in front of a beggar is pretty well outside normal human experience too.

But The Sun has gone with a more common indiscretion in its take on the book:

Described as a “hatchet job” by Mr Cameron’s supporters, the Tory grandee’s book also alleges he smoked cannabis at Oxford and later took cocaine.

Another close pal of the PM claimed the class-A drug was openly passed round a dinner party attended by the Camerons in the late 1990s.

The pal said: “I would be astonished if Dave had not taken cocaine at some point. He has been around it for a long time. He told me once about it being handed round at a Cotswolds dinner party. People were leaving the table and returning with bright eyes and dusty fingers.

This doesn't quite have the impact it might have had before Barack Obama recorded his own youthful use of cocaine and cannabis in a book before even contesting the US presidency. Cameron was no longer a foolish student by the late 90s, of course. He was busy trying to get himself selected for a safe Conservative seat. But a lot of people in Britain took cocaine in the 1990s.

There is an older, more gentle and amusing, story about Cameron's alleged drug-taking as a young man. Is it him in his dungarees at 00:13 in this video of a bunch of loved-up ravers swaying, smiling and gurning in a field in 1988?

Inconclusive, thought The Guardian. And really, people thinking it might be Dave was hardly likely to do him any harm. Unless, of course, he'd been unfortunate enough to have his E found by a police officer in 1988 and received a criminal conviction, which would have hampered, if not totally tanked, the political career he so keenly wanted.

But as Gary Younge points out in a good column in The Guardian, not all young people are as lucky as Cameron, and they tend to be less lucky if they're the wrong race, sex or class.

It's not necessary to even go as far as revenge porn to suppose that a young woman who flashes a boob on social media today might be setting herself up to be slut-shamed when she seeks a prominent job in 10 or 20 years' time. Or, maybe not. Maybe we'll have no choice but to be a lot more understanding now that the internet never forgets.

The irony is that before he became Prime Minister, Cameron spoke against the war on drugs and even when he was standing for the Conservative Party leadership, said this:

"Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades."

Like Obama, Cameron obeyed political convention and shelved his reformist scruples on becoming leader. But it leaves us with a fairly obvious contradiction. To have (allegedly) fucked a dead pig is weird and politically damaging – but quite legal. To have taken recreational drugs as a youth is both common and commonly accepted, even in political leaders – but a potentially life-blighting criminal offence if you're unlucky enough to be caught at the time. Perhaps we should look at that.

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