It’s not right. It really isn’t.

I’m heartsick, today, folks – and not because Zayn Malik has left One Direction (I’ve been there – sobbed buckets in 1985 when the BBC failed to film the third series of The Tripods. I have the diary to prove it).

No. I’m sad, and baffled, because there are people I know and respect who seem to think that Jeremy Clarkson being dropped by the BBC is a bad thing. Normally I’m pretty good at seeing other people’s point of view, I think it’s important to see both sides in an argument for the sake of balance, to learn from mistakes and to understand others better.

But in this particular case, I’m frankly bewildered. He presents a TV show about cars. Personally I’ve always found that he reminds me of playground bullies (both in terms of the arrogance and, quite possibly, in the underlying poor self esteem that just occasionally you catch a glimpse of) and yet I can see that the show is at times funny, informative and enjoyable.

I may not agree with what you watch, but I will defend to the death (not really) your right to watch it.

He’s made mistakes before, has Jeremy – with various examples of loutish, provocative behaviour, which may or may not have been staged for publicity purposes, and that is one thing…

…but physically and verbally assaulting a colleague to the extent that they have to go to hospital?

I’ve been wondering all day how anyone can think this is acceptable.

Because by signing a ‘bring back Clarkson’ petition, or bemoaning his departure to Sky or ITV or wherever, or being so abusive on social media to the poor guy who ended up with a split lip thanks to Jeremy’s fists that he has to go into hiding, that’s what you’re saying. That it’s okay to hit someone.

And what caused this ‘fracas’, as Clarkson described it?

….Clarkson was upset because there was no catering on set, or something.

Let’s put all this in another context. How many people get free food at work? How many people would actually punch someone if, for once, free food wasn’t available at work? How many people would blithely expect to get away with punching someone at work? How many people would get a million signatures asking for their reinstatement after they’d been suspended for punching someone at work? It’s unreal.

I’ll let that sink in while I change the subject for a moment.

Last weekend I was in Manchester as part of the SICK! Festival, sharing a stage with four¬†intelligent, witty and positive people for the purposes of discussing why books about trauma and suffering are so popular. As one of the fabulous people was Dan Davies, the subject of Jimmy Savile inevitably came up. We discussed at some length how it was possible that so many people knew or suspected that something was not right, and yet he managed to continue to abuse vulnerable people for decades, until his death. Part of the answer to that question lies in the personality of the man himself – the way he was able to hide ‘in plain sight’ – but some of the blame has inevitably been directed at Savile’s employers, including the BBC.

It was Jimmy Savile. He was famous. Who was going to believe he was capable of any wrong? Who was going to risk trying to expose someone so popular?

Now back to Jeremy Clarkson.

I’m not for one minute comparing him to Savile, or suggesting that he is anything other than that he has proven himself to be – a man who assaults someone in the workplace because he can’t get a free meal – but what I would like to draw your attention to is the reaction to his departure.

Why is his behaviour acceptable? Why should he be given a second (third, fourth, fifteenth) chance?

Because he’s famous. Because some of us like watching his TV programme.

And whilst people like him can get away with violence just because they happen to be on the telly, we continue to send out a significant message to all those who are in positions of power and fame. It’s different for you. You can do what you like. You can abuse anyone, if they get in your way, or they don’t do things you want them to do.

So no, don’t bring back Clarkson. Gather evidence, charge him with assault, wipe the smug grin off his face and let everyone know that violence isn’t acceptable, no matter who you are.

End of rant.

(If the BBC would like suggestions about possible programming options to replace Top Gear, may I humbly suggest they consider filming the third series of The Tripods?)

10 Comments

  1. Well said … Jimmy Savile was always creepy, but I used to find Jeremy Clarkson funny, in his early days.
    I feel the same about Geoff Boycott, convicted of assaulting his girlfriend but still employed as a cricket commentator. No, No and thrice No! It is indeed all wrong.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! I couldn’t agree more, and just like you I keep thinking of Saville and how he also got away with what he did because of his public status. I have been gobsmacked at how so many people have signed a petition and think that we can turn a blind eye to Clarkson’s despicable behaviour! People in the public eye should expect greater retribution for their wrongdoings because they have such influence. N and M watch Top gear and really enjoy it, but I’m pleased to say that N told disappointed M that firing Clarkson was the right decision and explained why.

    Does “Points of View” still exist?

    Disgusted,
    Bath.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. What surprises me is that criminal charges have not yet been brought against him. Violence in any workplace is a matter for instant dismissal (including verbal violence) and what he did is assault. No one is above law or common decency.

  4. Great blog post – my thoughts exactly. This is the man who has caused his own misery in this incident. He was late to the hotel because he and the other two plonkers were drinking in a bar, this producer was the only crew member who stayed up, even all the hotel kitchen staff had gone home.
    (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/top-gear/11472112/Jeremy-Clarkson-punched-producer-and-called-him-lazy-Irish.html)

    Any self respecting man would feel ashamed of behaving in this way, but I haven’t seen any remorse from Clarkson. He really does believe he is above the law. Not this time.

    He should have done the decent thing and resigned before he was sacked. Then people may have had a bit more respect left for him. I have no sympathy whatsoever.

  5. Nobody should be exempt from the sack for such a serious assault. Whilst Top Gear is without doubt a popular much loved programme, and Jeremy will be missed by his many fans, he could have chosen not to hit out at his colleague. As always victims lack such luxury of choice. Years gone by we have seen a politician remain in his job for punching a member of the public for throwing an egg, when the leader of the same political party refrained from doing so when it happened to him. Sad such an anger exists in the first place over something so trivial.

  6. Very well put, Elizabeth – and my thoughts exactly. I heard Eddie Mair get very hot under the collar yesterday on Radio 4 asking Alan Yentob ‘what DOES someone have to do to get sacked in the BBC?!’ Clarkson hasn’t after all, been sacked – just not had his contract renewed, which means he is not set apart from 1,000s of others who don’t get their contracts renewed, for whatever reason. He should be shamed for this, good and proper – people with power get away with stunts like this far too often and he needs to see the consequences of his actions. What message does it send out (just like the outrageous behaviour of certain footballers) to young people? As long as you’re famous and bolshy enough – you can get away with anything…

  7. One mixes with show biz elite and I guess abuse is part of the hazard…not excusable but it is there. A bit like someone working in a zoo and thinking that all animals are cuddly and lovable, like in the old Johnny Morris TV series. (I know that dates me). But it’s the arrogance of the individual that is staggering. The signs have always been visible. I wonder how many people remember Clarkson’s battle with the Isle of Man authorities over getting a footpath closed because it came too near his house. Fame and position seems to unleash the most unpleasant side of many people. A replacement for JC (hmmm) I think a comedian who owns a Ford Popular as his one and only car and spends a great deal of the programme finding fault with all cars….except electric ones!

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