Is David Cameron really too busy to sue Michael Ashcroft over piggate?

David Cameron portrait, July 2010 via Thierry Ehrmann

After a week of pretending to ignore the claim that he once stuck his penis into the mouth of a dead pig, prime minister David Cameron finally went on the record on what he euphemised as “the specific issue raised” in an upcoming biography about him:

“Everyone can see why the book was written and everyone can see straight through it. As for the specific issue raised, a very specific denial was made a week ago and I’ve nothing to add to that.”

In fact no public denial was ever made, though various Conservative ministers dismissed the allegations and comments leaked from Downing Street shrugging off the alleged lewd act, which comes from Call Me Dave, written by Tory peer Michael Ashcroft and former Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott.

As to “why the book was written”, Cameron is referring to the allegation that Ashcroft’s biography is a hatchet job intended to damage the prime minister after the Tory peer was denied a significant role in the Cameron ministry.

In a further interview with Sky News, Cameron also said he would not be taking legal action against Ashcroft, claiming that he “too busy running the country”:

“If you do a job like this, you do get people who have agendas and write books and write articles and write all sorts of things. The most important thing is not to let it bother you and get on with the job.”

Politicians tend to be resistant to launching libel suits, which challenge slurs on someone’s reputation, owing to the adverse publicity they can generate through days and even weeks in court which can be extensively covered by the press.

Also of interest is a video on the same page in which Sky News journalists unconvincingly explain why they didn’t cover the piggate allegations in depth for fear of being sued – an unlikely scenario given how thoroughly the claims were covered throughout Fleet Street, and even on the famously timid BBC.

This explanation from Rupert Murdoch’s broadcaster is doubly dubious owing to the loosening of libel law in the Defamation Act 2013, which means that complainants will have to prove “serious harm” in order to win the suit.

A YouGov poll from last week proved that more than half of the British public did not think the allegations of piggate and drug-taking by Cameron were important, though dishearteningly for the prime minister two-thirds thought they were true.

Image Credit – David Cameron portrait, July 2010 via Thierry Ehrmann

Jimmy Nicholls

Jimmy Nicholls

Writer on Westminster, free speech, religion and so forth. Contact jimmy.nicholls@rightdishonourable.com

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