In the face of two days of lurid allegations about David Cameron’s days at Oxford University, Downing Street has maintained an official vow of silence.
No 10’s strategy has been not to “dignify” the allegations, which surfaced in a book by former Conservative party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, by commenting on them.
Now, the prime minister has given the first signal of what he thinks about being accused of putting “a private part of his anatomy” into a dead pig’s mouth as part of an initiation rite at a “decadent” dining club.
Speaking to 300 guests at a Conservative party fundraiser on Monday night, he said that he had to go to hospital earlier in the day for a bad back, which he put down to “over-energetic” wood-chopping in his Oxfordshire constituency over the weekend.
The surgeon told Cameron that he would need an injection and asked him to lie on his front.
The doctor then said: “This will just be a little prick, just a stab in the back.”
The prime minister said that “rather summed up my day”.
The authors of the allegations, Ashcroft and the former Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott, admit they do not know if the story is true, but claimed it was made by a usually reliable source, a Conservative MP whom they did not name.
Ashcroft turned the joke back on Cameron. He tweeted:
His remark is a reference to Cameron’s refusal to offer him a ministerial job after the 2010 election, even though Ashcroft believed he had been promised one.
The book also contains allegations, sourced to the rightwing political journalist James Delingpole, a contemporary of the Cameron’s at Oxford, that the future PM smoked cannabis at university.
Delingpole wrote on Tuesday that he was surprised at the fuss. “Apparently I’m the first person in history to have gone on the record about taking drugs with a British prime minister. But it’s really no big deal is it?” he wrote for the Spectator.
“In fact, I think it’s one of those perfect non-scandal scandals in which all parties benefit. 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.”
This article was written by Patrick Wintour Political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 18.09 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010