Sun bottles it on #piggate scandal by sparing Cameron’s blushes

Murdoch rag puts party bias above tabloid irreverence


Surprise! We asked yesterday whether the Sun would put #piggate on its front page, replete with its trademark headline puns, mock-ups and cartoons.

Failure to do so, we said, would expose how the paper puts party bias ahead of its role as an irreverent tabloid.

Imagine how the Sun would have covered Lord Ashcroft’s claims if they were made about Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, let alone Ed Miliband…

So to today’s front page. Judge for yourself:

Sun 22 9 15

This is pretty tame stuff. Where are the pigs? Where are the cartoons? Where are the mock-up pictures of ‘what the prime minister might have looked like’ putting his privates in the mouth of a pig?

Pig-related puns do appear at the foot of the page, but only about the ‘swine who squealed’, referring to Ashcroft’s sources.

Instead, the story focuses on claims about drug parties, which the paper knows are far less embarrassing to the PM.

This approach continues inside the paper, where a story spins the pig’s head claims into Downing Street launching a ‘witch hunt’ to find the MPs who ‘squealed’.

(Note to the Sun: the thing about witch hunts is, witches don’t exist.)

The best it can offer is a small digest of cartoons from Twitter – plus a column by Cameron’s friend Toby Young saying the claims are ‘porkies’.

On the usually boisterous Sun Says editorial page, there is precisely no mention of any of Ashcroft’s claims.

How to explain this amazing restraint?

The Sun’s Murdoch-owned stablemate the Times provides a clue.

The Times 22 9 15

A small story on its front page begins:

Cameron biography claims start to unravel

“Sensational claims that David Cameron engaged in obscene activities with a pig’s head while a student at Oxford were unravelling last night after the authors of a new biography admitted they had failed to corroborate the story.

The prime minister was subjected to humiliation and ridicule yesterday over claims that he performed an indecent act with a pig during a bizarre initiation ritual.”

‘The prime minister was subjected to humiliation and ridicule’ – this is an invitation to sympathise with the most powerful politician in the country. Is he incapable of defending himself? Either way, it’s very good of the Times to step in on his behalf, (unsolicited, naturally).

Again, there is not a single comment about the Ashcroft claims – no pigs, no non-doms, not even drugs – on the editorial page of the Times.

There is a light-hearted column by Hugo Rifkind (which accepts the drugs claims aren’t interesting). And there is a cartoon of Cameron holding a pig – but the butt of the joke is Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

It looks remarkably like the Murdoch press is playing the part of the Conservative party’s press office, yet again.

The Sun has thus relinquished its defence for daily insults to its readers’ intelligence.

It isn’t ‘giving the people what they want’. Plenty of Sun readers wanted to see Cameron get a ribbing over #piggate.

It isn’t giving each story the same irreverent treatment.

Where its political team is concerned, the Sun plumps for deference over irreverence, and ducks its responsibility to do the one thing it does well.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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24 Responses to “Sun bottles it on #piggate scandal by sparing Cameron’s blushes”

  1. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    So, the Sun is right-wing, Toryphiliac arse-wipe – who knew?

  2. AB

    Perhaps it would be better to applaud The Sun and The Times for not leading on an unsubstantiated allegation and encourage it to use the same sensitivity when dealing with Labour figures?

  3. Equality

    “Hunt for swine who squealed…” etc etc. There it is. So what’s changed for you? Increased cognitive dissonance?

    Your Sun obsession is predicated on the faulty theory that other people are empty vessels, waiting for newspapers to inject ideas into us.. This leads to the faulty prediction that if only you could change what papers say, you could change what people think.

    So “the left” becomes an exercise in shaking fists at The Sun, while its supposed representative party elects as its leader a fellow-traveller of fascists. Strange priorities.

  4. Lubeck

    Thanks for information saved me paying £1 subscription

  5. Alex Mason

    Does it irk that a posh boy like DC is actually a lot
    more fun to be around than a bunch of self righteous leftards?

  6. Cole

    Quite a lot of the left are not keen on the Labour leader with the nasty friends…

  7. Cole

    …fine if your idea of fun is porking pigs.

  8. Patrick Nelson

    Oh yes that’s a great defence isn’t it! : )

    It’s all right British people your Prime Minister is not a pig ******* (or at least noone has proven it to the Sun’s satisfaction) he’s just a drug addled crazed partyman who fell off the psychodelic rainbow train.

  9. Patrick Nelson

    I thought it was David Cameron who is actually thought to be rather fond of Ham ass?

    Picture caption…

    “funny this bow tie was black when I came out?”

  10. Patrick Nelson

    Of course David Hameron’s idea of fun is getting sozzled and leaving his child in the entirely suitable and safe environment of a pub.

  11. jj

    This article, and much of what this journalist writes, is much like the Sun itself, just opinion pieces, no real story or news, all biased opinion…

  12. Patrick Nelson

    They normally say such things are in the public interest.

  13. Patrick Nelson

    Yes the Mirror’s coverage was much better–black-shocking-pig-6489947

  14. andagain

    Really? Who voted for him then? The Right?

  15. guidofawkes

    Where to start? I remember when this blog was launched as an “evidence based” policy site.

  16. jed shed

    Straw man anybody…?

  17. DaveJones

    The British public have accepted this as a student prank – nothing more.

    Get over it, and move on.

  18. Neil McEvoy

    No that’s what you are hoping for, it’s not the reality. Like every one else I was involved in lots of silly student pranks, at no point did any of us fuck a pigs head. The British public are rightly concerned and will continue to be so for a looong time.

  19. Alex Mason

    Sanctimonious much? Probably it’s that stick up your backside that’s prevented you from having any mates in your youth – if you had, you’d have probably be able to contextualize what the average young man is like when he’s with his wolf pack. Notwithstanding most liberals would probably think that the prohibition of drugs is wrong – I tell you mate, you could do with them more than most: You might even loosen up a bit.

  20. Patrick Nelson

    lol : ) Oh yes sorry! its me who is sanctimonious with a stick up my backside, unable to appreciate…

    “what the average young man is like when he’s with his wolf pack”

    …running round copulating with a dead pigs head, just like every healthy young man does – not.

    Throw insults, try and reframe it as much as you like, it changes nothing.

    As for drugs like the Tory party favourite of cocaine, we live in a democracy and they are illegal, take that up with the British people if you don’t like it.

  21. Patrick Nelson

    Wrong, David Cameron has lost face on this. People do not see him with the same degree of respect as before. They once saw him as a sensible balanced person, now their image of him is of a sozzled toff in a dinner suit engaged in bestial oral necrophilia.

  22. stevep

    Perhaps you are just a right-wing apologist.

  23. CortexUK

    I remember when GF had Westminster news and investigations.

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