Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Jeremy Clarkson: congratulations to the BBC on getting one of its two right-wing presenters off the screen in the run-up to the election

I have no idea what Clarkson's so-called "fracas" with his producer actually amounted to. But it better have been pretty bloody serious, otherwise several million regular viewers (including me) might feel a trifle aggrieved at being denied our regular dose of one of the few BBC programmes that isn't on BBC Four but is actually worth watching, and which can be guaranteed not to act as a Trojan Horse for steaming piles of leftie crap about climate change, the EU, the NHS, inequality, Health & Safety, Islam (did you know it's the religion of peace?), race, immigration, private schools or rich folk - i.e. the usual cultural Marxist claptrap.

Towards the end of my time at the BBC, there was a lot of talk about cosmically arrogant, teflon-coated "BAFTA Bastards" throwing their weight around, bullying staff, and generally getting away with blue murder. I saw it happen once or twice, and even got a taste of it myself, and have no sympathy for "stars" - whether behind or in front of the cameras - who monster production staff, knowing they'll get away with it because they deliver awards and/or big audiences. For instance, I cheered last year when a Radio 4 arts presenter was taken off air in the wake of bullying allegations.

But, while being a TV presenter doesn't incur the same pressures - or risks - as being a brain surgeon, a soldier or a policeman (well, one of those who actually deal directly with the less civilised stratum of society), it can be a seriously jitter-inducing (albeit well-rewarded) job. I've worked with at least two normally charming, level-headed politics presenters who got very snappish before the start of just about every programme, but whom everyone forgave because we understood how nerve-racking their jobs were. I also worked with several eminent news correspondents (one of whom is still regularly on our screens) who invariably behaved like pigs when the pressure was on, and who were pretty horrible even when it wasn't: I'd have been delighted to see them fired, preferably while they were strapped to a ground-to-air missile. And I'd have been only too willing to push the button.

But, given that I worked in live television for thirteen years, I witnessed remarkably little unpleasantness. That might be because news folk have to be thick-skinned - if you get a fit of the vapours whenever someone raises their voice to you or questions your parentage, you'd probably be well advised to choose another profession. Generally, it isn't people who lose their rag and then either apologise afterwards or simply forget it ever happened who are the problem at the BBC - it's the sadistic, warped shits who single out a specific underling as a whipping boy (or girl) and keep undermining them until the hapless employee resigns, has a breakdown, or manages to find a safe haven in another part of the organisation: I only saw two senior executives behave like that in all my time there (both have subsequently left) - the aforementioned news correspondents just seemed to hate everyone who wasn't a craven suck-up.

As for Clarkson, it'll be fascinating to hear what the investigation uncovers. If it was a single flare-up, and nobody was injured, well - so what? Ruffled feathers. And whoever decided to pull next Sunday's show will have questions to answer about their - and the corporation's - motive in denying millions of licence-fee payers an hour of harmless pleasure. If it was part of a pattern of bullying behaviour directed at a specific target, that might be a different matter. I await the results of the BBC's internal investigation with baited breath. Meanwhile, Clarkson can console himself with the thought that he can stroll over to ITV and pick up another fortune - there are signs, in any case, that Top Gear might well be on a downward slope.

Andrew Neil - the corporation's only other resident rightist - could be a bit of a handful at times (we had some interesting discussions) but I never saw him bully anyone or get involved in a "fracas" (or a brouhaha, or a set-do). Nevertheless, if the BBC has decided to cleanse itself of the handful of presenters who don't toe the Labour Party line, he'd better mind his ps and qs between now and May 7th.


  1. Whilst I have to acknowledge your assessment of Clarkson's right-wing credentials and his enormous box office power I just find him an irritating, bloke-ish oaf and I loathe the programme. However, I do read his newspaper columns once in a while and he does write very well.
    It brings me great joy to think of the hand-wringing and mental somersaults that the BBC executives must be going through as the thousands of Twitterers add their voice. What a marvellous pantomime.

  2. He may be a blokey bloke,but as we all know one mere hint of the worst crime in the world bar none,ie racism- even if its just a swift uninvited thought that crosses one's brow and is noticed by the men with arm bands watching all the BBC monitors for just this scenario,then its good night Irene.

  3. Hmm....not sure about this one. Just because you're on the right side of the argument most of the time, not a raging Lefty and once smacked Piers Morgan doesn't give you impunity from serial offences under section 5(b) of the Being An Arse Act 1988. Welcome back Riley. I think you've got it about right. Mind you, after extra time in BBC v Clarkson, I hope he wins on penalties.

  4. Seems he lost his temper and behaved like a knob towards his producer. Realising he had "gone to far" he reported himself to management. There may have been some pushing, but it doesn't sound like there was any actual punching. Unpleasant behaviour, especially as it was directed at an underling. Excessive, given that there was plenty of cold food on offer and that he could have his steak and chips if he hadn't delayed boarding the helicopter waiting to whisk him to the hotel because he was drinking a a pub.

    Clarkson should have been asked to apologise to the producer face to face, shaken his hand, and promised never to do it again. But it hardly sounds a crime so serious it warranted taking what will probably be the last three episodes of a much-loved and insanely profitable TV programnme off the air. If ITV management had done it, they'd have had to answer to their shareholders. Who does BBC management answer to? After all, we are the shareholders, and vast numbers of us want the programme back, as is evidenced by the number of signatures on the petition started by by the excellent Guido Fawkes website.

    I like to imagine I'm reasonably manly, Riley - but I've never been remotely blokey. I can't stand rugby, I drive a Golf rather than a Zonda, I cannot stand all-male gatherings, I loathe pubs, and I love poetry. It's not Clarkson's boorishness I admire so much as the way he has created a programme whose attitude to the limp-wristed, left-liberal claptrap we're force-fed these days is "Give it a bloody rest". I imagine I'd find the company of any of the three Top Gear presenters rather wearing fairly quickly (and vice-versa, no doubt) - but there's no real harm in them, they can be funny, I suspect we share many values (though by no means all), and it's just nice to have a televisual haven where, for an hour a week a few times a year, people like me can vicariously enjoy three people not being politically correct. I'm with John Jones on this - I suspect many licence-fee payers are sick of being constantly lectured by people who evidently feel that all traditional attitudes are wrong - even historical drama these days seems to consist of modern liberals wagging their fingers disapprovingly at our ancestors.

    Where we evidently all agree is the amusement to be gained from watching the BBC tie itself in knots over such an incredibly footling issue. Having gone ridiculoulsy overboard in reaction to previous Clarkson transgressions, they've left themselves with little wiggle room. I suspect BBC Director of TV, Danny Cohen - classic left-liberal - wants rid of Clarkson in any case, and that Clarkson's bored with the BBC and would be happy to jump ship to Sky or ITV, both of whom would probably allow him to punch the living daylights out of staff members whenever the fancy took him, just as long as he agreed to work for them.