It is a truth universally acknowledged that a TV ‘personality’ with a DVD to sell must be in want of some free publicity. That, I suppose, explains why Jeremy Clarkson so often fails to engage his brain before opening his mouth.
This week in an interview given on the BBC’s insipid The One Show he was at it again, shoving both loafer clad feet into his mouth at once as he told viewers that what he’d like to do to striking public sector workers was ‘take them all outside and execute them in front of their families.’
Just to clarify things he went on to say ‘I mean how dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living.’
Needless to say the condemnation of what he said was both rapid and noisy, Labour leader Ed Milliband got the ball rolling by calling Clarkson’s comments ‘absolutely disgraceful and disgusting’, they showed, he said, that Clarkson ‘obviously doesn’t understand the lives of the people who were out on strike.’ Quite so, although Red Ed’s condemnation would have a lot more heft to it if he and his shadow cabinet hadn’t spent the past few months tying themselves into a Gordian Knot of evasiveness claiming to support the principle of public sector workers having the right to go on strike whilst simultaneously trying to persuade them out of putting it into practice.
A rather more effective comment was made by Dave Prentis of Unison who said public sector workers ‘wipe noses, bottoms; they help children to learn and empty bins- they deserve out thanks not the unbelievable level of abuse he threw at them.’ Mr Clarkson, by contrast, earns his daily bread by driving cars very fast and generally acting like a spoilt twelve year old in the company of his two sniggering accomplices; you don’t need the services of a super computer to work out who makes the greater contribution to society.
There were also calls for David Cameron to disassociate himself from Clarkson’s comments, the prime minister duly obliged saying they were ‘a silly thing to say and I’m sure he didn’t mean that.’ As censure goes it’s hardly the sort of thing to have its recipient quivering in his shoes, but it did move things neatly into the next phase, the one where everybody pretends to be really sorry even though they aren’t.
The BBC went first saying the One Show was a ‘live topical programme which often reflects on the day’s talking points’ and went on to say ‘usually we get it right, but on this occasion the item wasn’t perfectly judged. The BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused.’ Actually the One Show is about as topical as Tizwas and the failure of judgement involved seemed to consist of departing from the programmes usual formula of boring its audience into submission, but at least their apology was a genuine show of contrition.
There was nothing like that to be heard from Jeremy Clarkson himself, what he said was ‘if the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise for it alongside them.’, then added ‘I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously, as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context.’
Ah yes, Context, the get out clause of choice for people who say foolish things. The context here is that Clarkson is sorry that what he said got him a storm of criticism on Twitter instead of a belly laugh from the boys in the saloon bar, not for the potential insult he might have heaped on people who do demanding and often dull jobs for modest wages and have the temerity to consider dignity in old age something worth fighting for.
Since the advent of David Cameron in 2005 the progressive wing of the Conservative Party has patiently taught its representatives in parliament to say nice things whilst thinking nasty ones. The public sector strikes though have allowed the real and unchanged character of the party to bubble to the surface. They see striking public sector workers as dangerous ‘militants’ hell bent on overthrowing the capitalist system of some such nonsense and apply a similar attitude to anyone outside the charmed circle of ‘wealth creators.’
In his autumn budget statement this week Chancellor George Osborne hammered public sector workers and families on low incomes whilst continuing to fight shy of regulating the banks or the city. The real surge of public anger should focus on what he is doing not what a past his best TV presenter said.
As for Jeremy Clarkson he seems to cut a rather sad figure, like the class clown who refuses to grow up; an analogue controversialist gasping desperately for the oxygen of free publicity in an overcrowded digital world.
As a good pinko liberal I wouldn’t seek to deny him his right to free speech, I would though like to take the opportunity to point out that since Jeremy Clarkson achieved his dubious fame and not inconsiderable fortune working for the BBC he is himself a public servant. I doubt he would be much missed if he went out on strike indefinitely.