Jeremy Clarkson and the politicians

Sometimes I hold my hands up in the air and wonder just what’s going on.

It’s been all over the news in the last few days that Jeremy Clarkson, infamous lead presenter of the BBC’s Top Gear, has been involved in what was initially described as a ‘fracas’ (great word, just vague enough to keep you guessing) and now, allegedly involved punching a member of the production team when hot food wasn’t available after shooting.

Given that Clarkson has previously made the headlines with outrageous, racist, homophobic and/or derogatory comments, culminating in a final warning from the BBC for his use of the ‘N’ word, it seems only right that the BBC will be pulling two or three remaining of episodes of Top Gear and investigating this and deciding what to do next. Cynically, I do wonder whether the BBC will try and smooth it over and get him to sign for another three-year contract, the deadline for which is due imminently, especially in light of this article about how much the debacle could cost the BBC.

Top Gear cancelled (for now)

What makes me despair, though, are some of the responses to this incident and how it’s been handled. First, comes news that an online petition to have Clarkson re-instated has, at the time of writing, nearly 690,000 people have signed. Do these people really believe that, just because he is popular, he should be allowed to get away with his behaviour with no consequence?

Then Maria Miller, MP, former Secretary of State for Culture, tweets this:

I agree that the BBC has an obligation (or duty of care, if you like) to its staff, especially if one of them has been punched. But seriously? Miller seems to be suggesting that, in spite of Clarkson’s track record which dates back at least ten years, it’s the BBC’s fault for not managing him better? I thought the Conservatives believed in taking personal responsibility for one’s actions?

And then my hands went higher in the air (and not in a good way) as I heard the news this morning.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, saying he hoped Clarkson would be re-instated, especially as his children would miss the presenter (I’m not sure I’d want to be subjecting children to Top Gear, but that’s another matter). He did add that, of course, it wasn’t really his place to get involved (so why did he?). My suspicion is that, as most politicians seem to do these days, he spotted a popular cause and jumped in, hoping there might be a few votes in it. I hope it was more a thoughtless thing like this, rather than a genuine belief that someone who has been shown to use racist, homophobic and offensive language and who may, possibly, have been violent to a co-worker, should be allowed to return to his job without any consequences.

The second option would be a truly worrying insight into the beliefs of the current Conservative Prime Minister.

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