Former UKIP official and self-proclaimed ‘gammon’ GAWAIN TOWLER on why the left’s latest insult might leave it with egg on its face.
Before Zoe William’s article in these pages last week, the last reference to gammon in The New European was via Hardeep Singh Kohli rhapsodising about the king of meat, pork.
It is not the wonder of Wiltshire of which we speak, but the faddish quasi-insult, derived from the sight of a couple of ruddy-faced yeomen appearing on BBC’s Question Time, who, in time-honoured fashion, refuse to accept the platitudes of their betters.
I declare an interest. I am middle class, on the wrong side of middle age and, after ten years in Brussels, have an unhealthy fixation on rich meats, pastries, Rioja and Barolo. Worse still, I hold the self-same opinions as those now labelled gammon. To be fair, friends tell me that the raging, cheekly flush is merely uncured tanning, but nothing can cure the opinions, not even the care and concern of kind souls at the 19th green.
The thing is, it was quite funny, that original ‘wall of Gammon’ meme, featuring the faces of a group of white, ageing men from the Question Time audience – though I fear that it wouldn’t have worked so well if the photos accompanying it didn’t suggest a television screen with the contrast turned up to 11. It spoke to a truth about a section of society that has, until the referendum, been largely ignored by received opinion.
Who wouldn’t be a little flushed when finally given a say about the fundamental direction of the country, and, having done so, and cocked one almighty snook at the concentric rings of power, influence and privilege, found those rings circling and doing everything possible to have that say overturned.
And thus red blood begins to replace the claret in the capillaries.
We all know politics is a knockabout game, and within it there are a thousand insults, both parliamentary and unparliamentary.
After all, the very name Tory is an ancient insult, the Gaelic word tóraidhe, a ruffian, or, as was put to me by an old Irish friend, a bogtrotting hoodlum. Nye Bevan’s description of Conservatives as ‘lower than vermin’ created, that week, the Vermin Club, with an internal hierarchy: vermin, vile vermin, very vile vermin and, at its sunlit peak, Chief Rat. At one point it had more than 100,000 self-professed members.
Michael Howard described UKIP as ‘cranks and gadflies’. Within days, the Gadfly Club was created, complete with monthly dinners in Strasbourg, ties, and all sorts of accoutrements.
Honestly, I have yet to meet anybody who, described as gammon, actually gives a hoot. Of course, there are a few fulminating, comic-book style, about the insult – in my view mistakenly, because they have seen the tactics of our opponents who play the outrage card at the drop of a hankie. Using confected hurt to close down debate, they see gammongate as an opportunity to dis the opposition.
But we purplish, gammon-faced types should take heart and take ownership, be gammon and proud. We must spread out, clip our handlebar moustaches and organise.
The Gammon Club is now founded. Now I must go and find some eggs.
Gawain Towler is UKIP’s former head of media; he now runs CWC Strategy, a PR and reputation management consultancy