Isabel Oakeshott, the co-author of the Call Me Dave biography of David Cameron that broke the infamous piggate story, has claimed she could have smuggled it into a Sunday Times diary so long as it was shrouded in euphemism.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the former political editor rebuffed claims that nobody on Fleet Street would have let her run the story with only one source, saying:
“Would I have got that story into The Sunday Times? Well, I reckon it probably could have been a diary story, expressed much more euphemistically.”
However, given how the original claim was phrased by Oakeshott and her fellow biographer Ashcroft it is hard to see how it could have been more delicately phrased:
“A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig. His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.”
Her suggestion that books require lower standards of proof than newspapers is also somewhat dubious, and given her experience as a journalist she must have known that Fleet Street would grab hold of the tale and run with it. She said:
“I think [the question about burden of proof] rests on a really false premise, which is that things that are written in books need to have the same standard — if you like to use that word — as things that are written in newspapers.”
She did, however, stand by her source, a Tory MP and Oxford University contemporary of Cameron:
“It’s my judgment that the MP was not making it up, although I accept there was a possibility he could have been slightly deranged.”
Oakeshott went on to say that she did not consider the claim an “allegation”, which may say something about her own, er, habits or the low expectations we have of politicians:
“In no way did we conceive of it as any kind of allegation against Cameron. I, frankly, don’t care what he did when he was drunk in university dining societies.”
This story was originally reported in the Sun.
Image Credit – Election UK, April 2010 by Alex Brown