British politics are always fascinating, a mix of titters and back-biting, but a new book has sparked a social media storm unlike few others, drawing an angry response from the prime minister's office.
On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron's university days at Oxford were in the news — and causing national bemusement — thanks to a new book by a former Conservative Party treasurer.
Michael Ashcroft, a wealthy businessman who donated millions to the party before falling out with Cameron, has co-written "Call Me Dave," an unauthorized biography that includes allegations of undergraduate drug-taking and juvenile sexual escapades.
Extracts published Monday in the Daily Mail newspaper claim Cameron smoked marijuana with friends — often while listening to 1970s rock group Supertramp. The book also quotes an unnamed college contemporary as saying Cameron once inserted "a private part of his anatomy" into the mouth of a dead pig during an initiation ritual for a student club.
Downing Street said Cameron wouldn't "dignify" the claims with a response, and they are likely to prove more embarrassing than harmful. Satirical responses flourished on social media under the hashtags #piggate and #hameron.
Cameron, 48, has often sought to play down his privileged upbringing. He attended Eton College, the country's most famous private school, and Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club, a raucous drinking-and-dining society with a reputation for drunken vandalism.
Downing Street portrayed the book as political revenge by an aggrieved former colleague.
Ashcroft, who co-authored the book with journalist Isabel Oakeshott, wrote that he had a "beef" with Cameron because he wasn't offered a senior government job as promised after the Conservatives were elected in 2010.
His most potentially damaging allegation is a claim that Cameron knew in 2009 that Belize-based Ashcroft was registered as "non-domiciled" in Britain and didn't pay U.K. tax on his foreign earnings.
Ashcroft was appointed a Conservative member of the House of Lords in 2000, and his tax status embarrassed the party when it was revealed in 2010, but Cameron claimed he hadn't previously been aware of it.