When the BBC reopened its Coventry and Warwickshire station in 2005, Gaunt - who had begun his radio career on the old BBC CWR - was enlisted to present the breakfast show, but soon resigned when a change in BBC rules meant that he would have to choose between his radio show and his column in The Sun. TalkSPORT snapped him up, and there he sat, bellowing at a microphone until he called a Redbridge councillor "a Nazi" and "an ignorant pig".
This week, he turned up on Question Time, seated at the end of the table on screen right. Those who follow the #bbcqt hashtag on Twitter will know the name given to this particular position by the irreverent. He started well by declaring that his old boss Rebekah Brooks should resign, but I lost my patience when he started shouting. You'd think that someone with as much radio experience as Gaunt would have a bit more microphone technique, wouldn't you? By the time he brought up the Divine Brown incident with Hugh Grant, order had been restored and I was back to thinking he was a steaming great nit.
All through Friday, as I tried to get on with my work, I kept thinking back to Gaunt's pisspoor performance. Finally, in a moment of boredom, I posted a fairly mild joke about Gaunt on Twitter, being sure to mention him to avoid accusations of cowardice:
"Breaking: People of Coventry wish they had somewhere to send @jongaunt."
He's from Coventry, you see? Where do you send people you want to ignore if you're already in the place to which people from other locales banish their annoyances? Geddit? Oh, suit yourselves.
A couple of hours later, came the reply:
"@LFBarfe writer? So what have you had published you no mark"
I tried to be as helpful as I could:
"@jongaunt Put my name into Amazon, you lazy sod."
"@LFBarfe just looked at your site... Shite! Have yup published any thing?"
Oh dear. Even though it seemed likely that subtleties would be lost on Mr Gaunt at that particular moment, I felt that they were worth making:
"@jongaunt I haven't published anything. I write; my publishers publish."
In the interim, I had re-tweeted his original misguided counterblast, as a result of which, he received helpful messages from several of my chums explaining that I was a raddled old hack with two books to my name and a third on the way, to say nothing of my years insulting Alan Giles in the back of Private Eye.
Finally, I decided to put Mr Gaunt out of his misery:
"@jongaunt Seeing as you're too pissed or stupid to use Amazon, I've done the work for you, you fucking skid mark. http://amzn.to/pK1q6f"
DYSWIDT? He called me a 'no mark', so I called him...yes, exactly. Was he pissed? Who knows? Who cares? However, the timing of his replies would have been consistent with coming in from a bloody good night on the Scruttock's Old Dirigible, and deciding to fire up the computer for something to read while a kebab is demolished.
On waking this morning, I was amused to see that Gaunt had arisen and was tweeting incoherently at anyone who stood up for me. Now, Gaunt's radio show on BBC Three Counties Radio won three Sony awards in 2001, for its coverage of GM's decision to close the Vauxhall car plant in Luton. He doesn't like people to forget this achievement.
So, I struggled to maintain control of my bladder when he went at a chap called Simon Hepworth. Now, I've never actually met Simon, as we missed each other at Lancaster by a year, but we have a lot of mutual friends, and we correspond regularly. One day, we will get together for a pint and it will be like we've known each other forever. Simon's a vastly experienced TV director, best known for his work on Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow. These days, he freelances, and when he's not doing broadcast telly, he's doing corporate videos and online stuff. Anyway, Simon joined in the fun with:
"@LFBarfe @jongaunt called you a no mark...ah well, it's better than being a stain on humanity"
To which Peter Griffin's slightly less self-aware doppelganger replied:
"@heppy @lfbarfe haven't you got a shitty little video to produce"
It was then that Simon played his masterstroke. Knowing that Gaunt loves to flaunt his gongs, the "shitty little video" producer came back with:
"@jongaunt @LFBarfe How many baftas have you won then?For a communicator you're rather rubbish at it when you can't fade people out aren't you"
Gaunt's two-part response was priceless:
"@heppy no Baftas as not a TV maker but many many radio awards. How many have you won?"
"@heppy you won one!...in 2005! Now that's funny and pathetic"
Now, a Sony award is a fine thing to have, but so's a BAFTA. Why is one something to harp on about endlessly, while the other is "funny and pathetic"? Gaunt couldn't see that his own tactics were being deployed on him to considerable satirical effect. Best of all was when Gaunt responded to a jibe from Simon about his various sackings and run-ins with Ofcom with "@heppy 2005 for Dick and Dom! You haven't been sacked cos you're so bland andvworked for the Beeb, you little civil servant" Simon's a freelance who's worked everywhere, and he keeps getting hired because he's good at what he does. No cushy-job time-server he. On pointing out his freelance status, Simon got this bundle of joy from the erstwhile shock jock cock.
"@heppy freelance really? I thought that was the polite way middle class ex BBC disguised being unemployed? Sorry to get it wrong"
Unless I'm reading that one wrong, there we have a freelance ex-BBC presenter attempting to use the terms "freelance" and "ex-BBC" as insults. Or maybe it doesn't apply to working class ex-BBC types? Gaunt also dismissed Simon as "now running a very small Internet TV company. Be polite and I might consider giving you some work.. I need a new tea boy". Quite apart from the fact that Simon's Internet company Video Ventures is just one of the things he does, what work has Jon Gaunt done since he left The Sun last year, apart from stinking up Question Time (which really is some kind of achievement) and posting on his own website?
Apart from his awards, Gaunt loves mentioning his Jaguar, as though it's some kind of indicator of his great success. So it was that he finished his dialogue with Simon: "@heppy right on the hook, you were easy but you bore me now, I'm off to get the Jaguar cleaned and book my holiday. Bye bye bye" Wow, he owns a car and can afford to book a holiday. He must be Charlie fucking Big Potatoes. I have no idea of the age or model of Gaunt's Jag, but know for a fact that I could walk up the road right now and pick up a second-hand XJ6 for a couple of grand. Unfortunately, having never learned to drive, it would be a waste of wedge, but I could do it, and then I could wank on about it as though it actually meant anything. Incidentally, while we're talking of wanking, I am informed, reliably, that in Gaunt's autobiography Undaunted he tells a tale of flogging his Horace to the point of issue using the bra of his dad's girlfriend, a woman he referred to as The Slag.
In a way, I feel sorry for Gaunt. He comes across like one of those punch-drunk old boxers, mumbling about past successes and talking themselves up as they attempt one last comeback. Dismissing experienced broadcasting professionals as being fit only to be his tea boy, while nobody's rushing to give him a show of his own again. He's just another freelance, like me, like Heppy. Taking our chances and trying to turn a coin by being any good. Knowing the freelance game like I do, I suspect that his bravado is a front. Maybe he's invested well or something, but at the moment I don't think he's earning enough from his media work to run a moped, let alone a Jag. I suspect that somewhere in the West Midlands, there is a man who spends three hours of every morning shouting into a hairbrush before going out to soap his motor and check out the bras on the washing line. Poor sod.