David Cameron laughs off piggate with 'little prick' joke

Lord Ashcroft fires back with his own jibe about Cameron's apparent failure to promote him in 2010

David Cameron is under pressure
(Image credit: Getty)

David Cameron has reportedly made light of the lurid accusations aimed towards him in a new unauthorised biography by Lord Ashcroft.

The book, Call Me Dave, included claims that Cameron was involved in drug-taking as a student, that he knew about Ashcroft's controversial "non-dom" status as far back as 2009 and – most bizarrely – that he took part in an "obscene act with a dead pig's head" during an initiation ceremony while at Oxford University.

No 10 Downing Street has repeatedly said it would not "dignify" the claims with a response, but at a Conservative Party fundraiser on Monday night the Prime Minister hinted at his thoughts.

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After the allegations of "debauchery" had spread like wild fire around the world, Cameron told 300 guests that he had spent part of the day in hospital for a bad back due to "over-energetic" wood-chopping at the weekend, reports BBC deputy political editor James Landale.

The doctor told Cameron he would need an injection and asked him to lie on his front, telling him: "This will just be a little prick, just a stab in the back."

The Prime Minister told guests, that "rather summed up my day".

Ashcroft later bit back, tweeting: "Good to see PM retains his sense of humour. We must have the same doctor. I had the same in 2010 when the PM reneged."

In the book, the former Tory donor says he and Cameron fell out after he was not offered a ministerial role in the coalition government as apparently promised, prompting many to describe the biography as "revenge" or a "case of sour grapes".

Meanwhile, journalist James Delingpole, who claimed Cameron had smoked cannabis at university, described the drug-taking allegations as a "perfect non-scandal scandal in which all parties benefit".

Writing in The Spectator, he said: "Dave acquires an extra bit of hinterland and is revealed to have been a normal young man. I get 100 more Twitter followers and a couple of columns. No one is hurt because, let's face it, smoking drugs at university is a healthy expression of youthful curiosity. It's all those freako, career-safe politicians who have never done drugs who should really worry us."

Piggate: lack of corroboration fails to extinguish blaze of mockery

22 September

The authors of the new "explosive" David Cameron biography have admitted that they failed to corroborate the sensational claim that he engaged in obscene activities with a pig's head while at Oxford University.

The 'piggate' story has prompted widespread mockery of the prime minister, with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron joking that he had "never been more pleased to be a vegetarian" and his predecessor Paddy Ashdown accusing Cameron of "hogging the headlines".

But friends and colleagues have spoken out against the claims made in Lord Ashcroft's unauthorised biography, Call Me Dave. One party source called them "utter nonsense", while a former university girlfriend of Cameron's insisted he was the "straightest man at Oxford".

The Times said the "piggate" claims were "unravelling" after the book's co-author Isabel Oakeshott admitted to Channel 4 News: "We couldn't get to the bottom of that source's allegation, so we merely reported the account that the source gave us."

She told BBC Newsnight that they had been "very careful" in how they worded the claim, which came from a "distinguished MP who was a contemporary of Cameron's at Oxford".

Ashcroft and Oakeshott have come under fire for including the uncorroborated account. Even Ian Kirby, former political editor of the News of the World, said he would have been "booted out of the office" had he suggested running such a story without any proof. "As every political journalist knows there are lies, damn lies – and then the tales that MPs tell about their enemies," he writes in The Spectator.

Other allegations in the book are being taken more seriously. The New Statesman points out that obscene acts with a dead pig are not illegal (although it adds that this could be changed with "a private members' bill") and that "a bigger row may be brewing about Lord Ashcroft's claims that he was promised a job in exchange for a donation, and that Cameron knew he was minimising his tax liabilities before 2010".

New excerpts from the book, published in the Daily Mail today, also reveal criticisms over the crises in Libya and Syria from the former chief of the defence staff. General Lord Richards apparently had to remind Cameron that "being in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at Eton" did not qualify him to decide the tactics of military operations.

Nevertheless, Roy Greenslade of the Guardian says it is the "pig business" that will "surely be the enduring image of this farcical political episode".

Lord Ashcroft issues 'revenge' book after snub by Cameron

21 September

A new unauthorised biography of David Cameron, written by Lord Ashcroft, looks likely to cause some embarrassment for 10 Downing Street.

The book, entitled Call Me Dave, includes claims that Cameron was involved in drug-taking and was the member of a "debauched Oxford society" while at university, and that he knew about Ashcroft's controversial "non-dom" status in 2009.

The Daily Mail, which features extracts from the biography, says it is a story of "revenge" that reveals the "extraordinary feud" between the two men.

Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Conservatives, who donated £8m to the party to help Cameron into power, says they fell out after he was passed over for a leading role in the coalition government.

Cameron has previously suggested he had no idea Ashcroft was not paying UK tax on his overseas earnings until his financial affairs were made public in 2010. But Ashcroft claims Cameron knew the year before.

The book – co-written by Isabel Oakeshott – does praise Cameron for his hard work and "remarkable achievement" in the last two elections, but also includes bizarre claims that he took part in an "obscene act with a dead pig's head" during an initiation ceremony at university.

The Daily Telegraph says the book "will prove embarrassing for Downing Street". An official spokesman said they "are not going to be commenting on any of it", while one Conservative source told the Telegraph that they did "not recognise" the allegations.

The Mail describes it as "the most explosive political book of the decade" but, in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade says he cannot imagine it "doing much more than ruffling Cameron's feathers".

Greenslade concludes: "Most of the negative stuff is historical, unsurprising and of little real consequence. People are much more likely to view the whole business as poor form by Ashcroft, a case of sour grapes."

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