UK Prime Minister David Cameron
All of this posh-boy behaviour is mostly cringeworthy rather than threatening. But its function is crucial: where power is concentrated and passed between fathers and sons, the sexual humiliation of initiation serves as a rite of passage into the most exclusive club in society, the ruling class.
Class is just as crucial as sex and power. Cameron, after all, was also a member of the Bullingdon Club, a dining society notorious for nights out that ended in the violent destruction of restaurants and bars. Humiliating the “oiks” was their goal, demonstrating to the unsuspecting barmaid, customer, or restaurant-owner their weakness before the savagery of wealth and privilege. “What it basically involved was getting drunk and standing on restaurant tables, shouting about ‘f***ng plebs’”, one Tory MP who left the Bullingdon Club remembers. “It was all about despising poor people.”
Sex and violence, class and power, bonding rituals help to unite these disparate features of inequality into (literally) naked displays of ruling class anarchism. Members of the club share a common humiliation; members of the public share a double humiliation by being reminded we are all pigs’ heads, props to be used and abused in the formalities of passing power from one generation of inherited rulers to another.
The tragedy of British democracy is that we’re so immune to scandal that this revelation will probably prove, in the long run, relatively harmless to Cameron. After all, we have former prime ministers who seem to have been complicit in covering up paedophilia, and another who allegedly engaged directly in this far more serious act. Put in that context, Cameron’s poke-in-a-pig becomes something of a bad-taste joke.
And thus part of the reason why the British are so ready to believe Lord Ashcroft’s story, aside from the fact that Ashcroft is a top-tier Establishment figure in a country with absurdly plaintiff-friendly libel laws, is that Cameron’s ideological training is already well understood by the public. There is nothing likable about such a background, particularly when the ruling class it produces is waging a war on the poor and disabled that would have made Thatcher blush.
So to then hear that the guy at the top of that pyramid was peer-pressured into putting his dick in a pig’s mouth or risk not being included in a club of nasty, entitled people, it creates a much more satisfying reaction than mere laughter. A figure of terror becomes a figure of ridicule, a reversal like the boggarts in Harry Potter, who impersonate your worst nightmares until you can cast a spell on them that makes them look absurd.