Even if the allegation is completely untrue, David Cameron will now forever more be known as a pig-fucker. This is partly because the other revelations in the unauthorised biography by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakshott are trivial, but mainly because the image of a decapitated porker coming into contact with the PM's pork sword is so powerful that it blinds us to the rest of the portrait. In Ashcroft's hands, Cameron comes across as casual, reluctant to think (which appears to be the criticism coming from the military), and louche, but probably no more than the average for his social "set". There is an inescapable air of middle-class moralising by the ex-grammar schoolboy about the privileged Old Etonian, which is why the serialisation was a good fit for the Daily Mail. There is no real story here, but there is an endless source of jokes and puns.
The pig's head has long been a rich symbol. As a hunted animal, the wild boar was admired for its willingness to fight, and also had associations in mythology with the underworld (all that rooting about), death and winter. The Boar's Head Feast, which lives on in the modern Christmas ham, is clearly a solstice celebration in which the cooked boar symbolises the death of the darkest season, though it's not entirely clear what the apple (or orange or lemon) in the mouth represents, if anything (it's surely just an unfortunate coincidence that it looks like a bondage ball-gag). The oldest extant English ceremony is found (coincidentally) at Queen's College, Oxford, which legend has it originated when a student, attacked by a wild boar, choked the animal by stuffing a volume of Aristotle down its throat. This obviously symbolises the triumph of learning over the feral, and thus the wider victory of civilisation over nature, but it also provides a pun on the traditional herbal accompaniment: he "fairly choked the savage with the sage".
As a representative of the dark side, the wild boar has often been seen as evil or possessed (e.g. the Gadarene swine), hence the common belief that pigs are unclean. Even where they are eaten and have been domesticated, they remain a metaphor for human uncouthness: the swinish multitude. In the modern era, the pig's head has become a threat of violence (easier to buy and manoeuvre than a severed horse's head), often deployed as a conscious act of pollution, hence its frequent appearance hurled at the doors of police stations, synagogues and mosques. Back in 1978, I saw Angelic Upstarts at Newcastle Poly kicking a fresh pig's head around the stage to accompany their debut single, The Murder of Liddle Towers. The song referred to a local hardnut who was found kicked to death after a night in the police cells. I even remember the chorus: "Who killed Liddle? The police killed Liddle; police killed Liddle Towers". Naturally, the police tried to nick them for this provocation.
Though a pig's head can be a tasty dish, and could therefore be considered a good thing, it still retains that unmistakable message of contempt even when cooked, hence the cochinillo, or suckling pig, that was famously thrown at Luis Figo when he returned to the Camp Nou as a Real Madrid player in 2002. The association of the pig's head and sport, or male-bonding more generally, is not accidental. It is a fairly common prop of rugby club night-outs and stag-dos, and occasionally to be found hidden as a surprise present in changing room lockers. Perhaps this carries an echo of the ancient hunt, from which most sports derive. Or perhaps the pig's head is just a handy piece of ickiness in a world where we rarely see the reality of factory-farming and meat production. A packet of Walls' sausages does not have quite the same impact.
Quite a few people have drawn a parallel between the Cameron tale and The Lord of the Flies, the eponymous boar's head and totem that symbolises innate human evil in the book by William Golding, but this too obviously seeks to emphasise the debauchery and amorality of a groups of unsupervised schoolboys. The Piers Gaveston Society, which dates from the early Thatcher years, was probably more influenced by Brideshead Revisited and the Cambridge Apostles (the sex and sarcasm more than the philosophising or spying). As was evident in the sociology of the Bullingdon Club, what matters is the sense of entitlement and the associated licence to display contempt towards outsiders and social inferiors; a heady brew for conformist teenagers. In this context, the choice of a pig's head does not appear to be particularly significant.
What would turn the merriment into full-blown disgust - and thereby prove the Piers Gaveston Society to be true provocateurs rather than poseurs, while simultaneously condemning Cameron down the ages - would be to discover that the ceremony was a sort of black-mass in which the initiate cursed and defiled an embodiment of the Empress of Blandings, the noble beast who appeared in no less than ten P G Wodehouse stories. Morrissey's call for the prime Minister to resign if the allegation is true could quickly become the defining social media campaign of our time. Jeremy Corbyn ought to ask a question in the House. It's surely what the nation wants.