A motivational speaker called “Dr Gammons” is running as the UKIP candidate for mayor of London. It feels like a character from a late-night BBC3 prank show has come to life, or a social experiment conducted by a Goldsmiths student which has spiralled wildly out of control. Dr Gammons is an instance of reality being so on-the-nose that it’s scarcely believable.
If you’ve never heard the term before, “gammon” is an insult that refers to a certain kind of angry, puce, middle-aged white man who loves Brexit, hates immigrants, and votes Conservative (or indeed UKIP). He probably also enjoys golf, Jeremy Clarkson, the Queen, lunching in expensive gastropubs that serve “proper English grub”, and exploiting his tenants as a buy-to-let landlord. Back in 2018, when the term was first coined – it can be traced back to a composite photo of nine different men who shouted at Jeremy Corbyn about nuclear disarmament on Question Time – it spawned months of discourse and a truly interminable number of thinkpieces.
Lots of people on the right objected to the term, arguing it was a slur, playground bullying, classist (there’s an element of metropolitan sneering to it, certainly, but the reading of it as straightforward snobbery is complicated by the fact that gammons are typically wealthy and/or middle-class) and even racist against rich, middle-aged white men — when will that demographic ever catch a break? Like its spiritual cousin “centrist dad”, the term has fallen out of favour. It’s a two year-old piece of internet banter, a form with a famously short shelf-life, and using it today would be desperately unchic.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a good laugh about the fact that UKIP, that most gammon-y of political parties, are fielding a candidate who is literally called Dr Gammons. The fact that he’s also a motivational speaker makes this almost too Alan Partridge to be believed. Let’s learn a little more about the man, the mystery, the gammon.
According to his website, Dr Peter Gammons is “one of the world’s most famous and in-demand inspirational and motivational speakers” and it is “it is historically documented that he has spoken to larger crowds that any other person in history”. That seems a little implausible, but if it’s a matter of historical document, I suppose it must be true. Apparently, “Peter is especially known for his use of humour to illustrate points”, so perhaps his entire campaign is a Dadaist prank after all.
Dr Gammons’s platform is a predictable mixture of harmless eccentricity and outright anti-migrant sentiment. “There are over two million miles of unused tunnels, streets, and chambers beneath London. I want to convert these disused spaces into walkways, safe cycle lanes, and create the world’s first underground ‘Pod’ transport system.” As a proposal, it’s a little bit kooky, a little bit out-there, but it’s not terrible!
“As a parent and grandparent, fighting for affordable housing in London is a priority,” he writes. “Too many luxury homes are being built,” he adds, which is, you know, fair enough. Maybe this Dr Gammons character might not be so bad after all? But sadly he continues: “Migrants are frequently being prioritised for housing over Londoners. This must stop.”
Suffice to say, this is categorically not the problem with or the solution to London’s housing crisis, a problem, caused by unchecked renter capitalism, that no right-wing politician will ever be able to address. Dr Gammons also wants to fight lockdown, give more money to the police, and prevent “Sadiq Khan’s war on motorists.” At long last, a mayoral candidate who speaks to Top Gear viewers.
Happily, there is zero chance of this man ever being elected mayor in London. But maybe Sadiq Khan should nick the “underground walkways” idea when he inevitably wins.