Media luvvies at the BBC look set to use his recent “fracas” with a producer boot out Jeremy Clarkson. The Top Gear presenter was described as having had a “child’s tantrum” after being unable to order steak at the hotel he was staying at in North Yorkshire.
But supporters of Clarkson have privately claimed his suspension has much more to do with the level of hatred that exists between the presenter and the BBC executives that will decide his fate. Since 2002 Clarkson and his best friend from school, Andy Wilman, have been in control at Top Gear, creating an image that many at the BBC loathe.
One senior executive told the Daily Mail: “Everyone is convinced he will now go. Clarkson is widely despised and there are a lot of people who would be thrilled to see him go. He is viewed as, well, someone called him a ‘complete tool’. He has always been his own worst enemy.
“He is incredibly arrogant – he delights in going too far. The point is that the show has been so powerful that he didn’t have to care about what anyone else thought.”
The BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen is said to be particularly keen to see the back of Clarkson. The Mail described Cohen as: “Cerebral, metropolitan and painfully right-on, Mr Cohen has previously tried to take disciplinary action against Clarkson after the presenter used the racist term ‘slope’ on its Burma special last year, but was overruled by Lord Hall.”
Cohen is believed to have been suspicious of both Clarkson and Wilman for sometime, and is now trying to use the row as an excuse to move them out. The BBC boss is described as an “anti-racist” who is unhappy with Clarkson’s lack of political correctness.
He had wanted Clarkson out when he got into trouble for accidentally saying the ‘N’ word when reciting the rhyme “eeny meeny miny mo” on the show. The footage was leaked by someone within the BBC and Lord Hall gave Clarkson a “final written warning” over the incident. This left Cohen “humiliated”.
Throughout his career Cohen has been a “champion of ethnic diversity” and is married to a liberal economic professor at Cambridge University.
In anticipation of a Clarkson departure, both Sky and ITV are putting together highly attractive financial offers. The BBC retains control of the trademark Top Gear, but this might be of little value if Clarkson leaves.
Another complication is both James May and Richard Hammond are nearing the end of their contracts. If Clarkson left the BBC, they could join him as early as next month.