Smear Tactics

Got a vague, spurious and largely unsubstantiated rumour you need to make stick? Want to spread some dirt on someone without getting sued through the arse? Then you, my friend, need to take a lesson from Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott’s seminal work Call Me Dave: Gossip For Beginners And Improvers.

Lord Ashcroft might have deep pockets, but even he knows that you don’t want to get yourself willingly wrapped up in a libel case. That’s a very real danger when you want to publicly accuse your former buddy of fucking a dead pig in the mouth; and it’s an even realer danger when that buddy is the prime minister of your country (even if you don’t technically live there for tax purposes).

What can you do then to ensure that people understand what you’re driving at, without you actually saying the words? What can you say to make your meaning clear, without being in breach of the law?

There’s a few ways to do it – and Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott try them all.

The Scattergun Approach

They say if you come for the king, you best not miss. The best way not to miss? Take out absolutely everyone in a three-mile radius. Show no quarter.

When it comes to making rumours stick, there simply is no tarbrush wide enough.

Take, for example, the heavy insinuation that the Camerons once enjoyed a bit of coke at a party. For that is precisely what Ashcroft and Oakeshott are implying in their first chapter – which deals with the star-studded New Year’s Eve party in Chipping Norton, frequented by the rich and infamous.

Obviously they can’t out-and-out say it, as there is no good way to prove it, but what you can do is this:

1) Single out a large number of individuals

2) Be very non-specific about the particular drugs in question

3) Don’t attribute any of the non-specific drugs to any individual

Et voila! The parameters of your accusation are now so huge as to encompass a massive coke-and-pills fuelled bacchanal; a quiet get-together where some smacked-up twat turns up – and anything in between. You leave it to the reader to make the distinction.

The Euphemism

Much in the same way that “tired and emotional”, “well-oiled” and “very refreshed” are all code for “drunk out of their tiny minds” – or that “fruit and flowers” is celebrity accountant speak for “cocaine and prostitutes” – there are certain polite, euphemistic phrases you can use to imply that someone is mashed on drugs.

There’s no telling what could cause a person to feel “euphoric”. Drugs, yoga, dance music, the sight of the Grand Canyon as the sun comes up. Euphoria can come from anywhere.

Still, it is pretty helpful that “euphoric” is always the word that gets used on drug pamphlets and biology textbooks – so you can be sure that everyone, from the squarest swot to the most raucous drug pig, knows what you mean.

The added bonus is that they give a sense of innocence and naiveté to your unfounded claims, as if you personally don’t know what could cause a person to act that way.

The Rhetorical Question

Because ‘possession’ and ‘intent to supply’ are actual, letter-of-the-law crimes you need to make sure that you don’t inadvertently suggest that any of the people at the party you’re describing were responsible for providing them. There’s no quicker way to say, “Listen, we’re just saying there were definitely drugs there. You make your own conclusion,” than by using a rhetorical question.

Setting The Scene

You have stated that there are unexplained narcotics in circulation and you have stated that the guests are all in various states of intoxication. So how do you now pin it on someone? Aside from saying they looked euphoric – which might just happen to anyone sensitive to a party atmosphere – how do you subtly imply that the man you want to nail has been hoovering up coke like a Henry?

(It also doesn’t harm your cause to make it clear that your target is a condescending pillock either…)

Subliminal Suggestions

You may have noticed the word ‘bumped’ highlighted in the excerpt above. ‘Bumped’ is, of course, a perfectly natural verb to use when describing the act of running into someone outside of a toilet. It does connote a certain level of discombobulation – the way that the equally valid verbs ‘met’, ‘greeted’ or ‘saw’ do – but it’s probably no coincidence that they picked the word ‘bump’ in particular.

Why? Because ‘bump’ is also a word associated with cocaine. You take a bump of coke.

Possibly you think this is just a coincidence – and maybe we are reading too much into this particular example – but to shift from the cocaine rumours to the pigfucking allegations, look at this…

Does “pink and perky” remind you of anything? Say, a couple of very popular pig puppets from the 50s and 60s? On its own, perhaps an unfortunate coincidence – and not everyone is so purile that the phrase “not yet the size he grew to” makes them immediately think of a burgeoning erection in David Cameron’s pants.

But then, not two pages later, we reach this quote…

Charitably, you could read that Deen is suggesting that private school boys were all so socially stunted that they hadn’t even made the acquaintance of a six-year-old girl yet (the traditional pigtail wearer) but this is a very peculiar quote. At best, it has echoes of Yewtree nonciness; at worst, it confirms the suggestion that everyone at Eton would develop an erotic fascination with pigs’ arses.

What’s strangest of all though is that this quote isn’t even about Cameron. The lothario in question is his Eton contemporary, Max Wigram. Cameron is one of the ones who hadn’t (yet) had a sniff of pigtail. So why include the quote? Because, like a cryptic crossword clue, it subtly lays the foundations for the pigfucking story, which crops up later.

Still, once is accident. Twice is coincidence. But three times?

Four times?

All of this is without even touching on any of the actual, specific pigfucking allegations. This is just added flavour, seasoning up the long sections of porkless waffle.

And heaven knows it needs all the seasoning it can get. As Ashcroft claims he is saving the explosive details of his personal relationship with David Cameron for his forthcoming memoirs (in a sort of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One/Part Two attempt to spread limited material as far as is possible) it means the rest of Call Me Dave is a largely limp affair.

If you’re craving proper scandal though, it’s only a few weeks until the tell-all book about the crack-smoking ex-mayor of Toronto Rob Ford comes out. So we’ll resume our class again then.