The issue of tax, then, and Corbyn’s promise to tax the rich, was high on the agenda. Alluding to Labour’s decision to seek the advice of various economists like Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz and others, Cameron ridiculed the choice of Richard Murphy, author of the book The Joy of Tax. The Prime Minister gleefully claimed to own a copy of the book, ‘I took it home to show Samantha, it’s got 64 positions and none of them work’. The effectiveness of this little joke, as the apparent discomfort of his wife made clear, depends upon the jocular confusion with the sexual therapy classic of the 1970s, Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex. Given that the opening line of Cameron’s speech declared that ‘the vast majority of people are not obsessives’, his tacit acknowledgement that in the bedroom ‘the tasks of nature are not his strong point’,3 is another example of his unconscious making mischief in its suggestion about Cameron’s distinction in this regard. Further, of course, the joke lets us in on the source of the resentment about paying tax for the benefit of the poor; it symbolizes the Other’s theft of jouissance.
Cameron’s suggestion that money compensates for the loss of jouissance was further supported by his admission that as a schoolboy he was a ‘hooker’, emphasising ‘that’s a factual statement not a chapter in Ashcroft’s new book’. While the term ‘hooker’ here is supposed to mean a position in rugby union rather than an American sex worker, the reference to Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott’s biography Call Me Dave clearly evoked the sexual meaning and the sacrifice of jouissance for money. It also reminded everyone of the allegations in the book concerning Cameron’s familiarity with the idea that phallic jouissance (and its difficulties) is an effect of symbolic castration. The book is generally seen as an attempt to discredit Cameron, an act of revenge for his failure to promote Tory peer Ashcroft to a high office in government. Serializing the book, The Daily Mail chose to feature an anecdote about Cameron’s days at Oxford and an ‘initiation’ ritual that he had to undergo in order to join the ‘notorious Oxford dining society, the Piers Gaveston, named after the lover of Edward II, which specialises in bizarre rituals and sexual excess’.4 In the ritual, according to a fellow MP who remains anonymous, Cameron was required to insert his private member into the mouth of a dead pig. As Steve Bell’s cartoon in The Guardian illustrated, this anecdote provided a subtext to Cameron’s speech at the conference.5 Nevertheless, in spite of Ashcroft’s vulgar attempt, Cameron has not been damaged; the anecdote has been greeted with a mixture of incredulity and mild amusement. This is slightly curious, it seems to me, and perhaps indicates something about the public perception of Cameron. I suspect that the register of obscenity might have been higher if the anecdote had concerned Tony Blair, hinting at a darker side to the Catholic convert; or indeed one imagines a frisson of horror at the thought of the dour Presbyterian Gordon Brown … There is a certain vacuity to Cameron’s Old Etonian charm and ruling class amoral insouciance that distinguishes him from the moral ambivalence and inevitable compromise of Labour Prime Ministers. Reviewing Ashcroft’s book, David Aaronovitch notes that it emphasizes that ‘everything he has he was born into or was handed to him on a salver’, adding that ‘Cameron is merely an elegant empty vehicle that someone else is driving’.6
From the very start of his leadership of the Conservative party, Steve Bell has always depicted David Cameron fully encased in a bright pink condom. The image suggests that it is not the little organ that the Prime Minister is himself encumbered with that is at issue in politics. Rather it is his role as an imaginary phallus whose rosy glow renders every object equivalent in subjecting them to the same economic function. The other reason I assume is because of Cameron’s initial determination to ‘detoxify’ the Tories as the ‘nasty party’ – the condom suggesting that protection from the jouissance demanded by the rich can be compensated in cash, and that economic exploitation isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the poor.
1 The Independent. 01.10.14
2 The Independent. 08.10.15
3 See Lacan on the specific difficulties of the obsessional in Seminar VIII, xviii 8.
4 The Daily Mail. 20.09.15
5 Steve Bell, The Guardian. 07.01.15 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/oct/07/steve-bell-on-david-camerons-conference-speech-cartoon
6 David Aaronovitch, The Times. 10.10.15