This isn’t so much a piece about Jeremy Clarkson as about all the other celebrities the BBC employs who aren’t Jeremy Clarkson.
I call them the “Wankerati.”
Here are some examples:
Ian Hislop; Dara O’Briaiaiaan; Brian “PermaSmile Astro Boy” Cox; Bill Oddie; Russell Howard; Simon Singh; Noel Fielding; Marcus Brigstocke; Jeremy Hardy; everyone else on the News Quiz; the unfunny has-beens from the Now Show whose names I can’t be bothered to look up; Chris Packham; Rick Edwards; Graham Linehan; Lenny Henry; Emily Maitlis; Ian Katz; David Mitchell; Russell Howard; Bill Bailey; Jo Brand; Monty Don; Simon Schama; Russell Howard….
As you can see, the list is by no means complete because it needs to include more or less everyone at the BBC who isn’t Jeremy Clarkson. Some of you may be concerned at the fact that Russell Howard doesn’t appear nearly often enough for one so lame and annoying. Others may be perturbed by the presence of presenters they admire – such as, maybe, Ian Hislop who, I’d quite agree, is really, really good at fronting programmes on Victorian hymns, World War I or railway timetables.
But this isn’t about talent – or lack of – it’s about personal politics. Everyone on that list ranges in outlook from the nauseatingly bien-pensant to the rabidly left-wing, to the point where you could fairly confidently predict their position on any number of topics from Nigel Farage, Israel/Palestine and global warming all the way through to mildly racist jokes, foxhunting, bankers, positive discrimination and the European Union. Oh, and Jeremy Clarkson, of course. Few, if any of the people on that list would be able to find much good to say about Jeremy Clarkson. Which, of course, is one of the reasons why the BBC’s sacking of Clarkson is going to turn out to be such a massive mistake. He was the one major talent in the entire organisation who wasn’t like all the others…
And till Clarkson’s nemesis BBC Controller of TV Danny Cohen came along, the BBC appears instinctively to have understood his value. Not his commercial value (the BBC likes to think it’s above such vulgarities) but rather his propaganda value. Top Gear was the BBC’s equivalent of a Potemkin Village or – a bit of Clarksonesque bad taste here, why not? – those films the Nazis used to make of jolly, well-fed Jews playing in orchestras and sitting in cafes near their delightful new living quarters in the Warsaw Ghetto. Any time unhelpful people started banging on about the BBC’s entrenched left-wing bias and maddening political correctness, all the Beeb had to do was point at the self-evidently not left-wing and not PC Top Gear as proof of the contrary.
Till the BBC sacked Clarkson, my view was that they were going to get away with this game for many years hence. But now I am not so sure.
Over a million people signed that petition urging the BBC to reinstate Clarkson. A fair proportion of them, I suspect, will belong to precisely that demographic the BBC finds most embarrassing: white, obviously; probably Thatcherite in outlook, but quite fond of Nigel Farage; highly sceptical of “global warming”; petrolheads, again obviously; not averse to telling the odd racist joke when they’re with their mates, not so much because they have anything against “coloured” people (as they probably call them, not knowing the correct term) but more as a reaction against political correctness; might not have gone to “uni” because they could tell it was a complete waste of time. People who – at least in the BBC’s Weltanschauung – are pretty much beyond the pale.
Unfortunately for the BBC, however, these disgusting, frightful people, very few of whom live anywhere civilised like North London or have ever knowingly eaten cavolo nero, represent a much larger percentage of the population than any of the worthy groups it would prefer to cater to (the “Asian” community; gay people; disabled people; Roma; environmentalists; activists; etc). While Top Gear was on – the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses” – this mob were kept at bay. But with Top Gear gone, they may incline to feel that they have been cheated – like a serially abused child whose one and only toy has finally been snatched away from him by his prissy, unloving, perma-stubbled, tofu-eating stepfather.
In short, for many years the BBC has been living a lie. It has pretended – as its Charter requires of it – that it’s for everyone when really it has continually and ruthlessly shut out any presenters, programmes or opinions which don’t fit into its narrow, metropolitan, left-liberal narrative. And what the Clarkson sacking has done is brought this issue to a head. Also – a bit like Gamergate did for gamers – it has woken large numbers of people who hadn’t hitherto thought of themselves as particularly political into an appreciation of how badly they’ve been conned and abused by a narrow, self-selecting and very political elite who despise them.
The BBC – and its defenders – are currently excusing themselves with the fig leaf of due process. (You know the line: “In any business where a staff member was assaulted by another member of staff….” yadda yadda). But what this excuse ignores is that the BBC has been itching to rid itself of the turbulent Clarkson for years and if it hadn’t been the punching incident then it would simply have been something else.
There’s a feebler, second line of defence which goes on the lines of “Well I never thought he was that good” or “he was past his sell-by date” or “he was a frightful bully”, all of which again contrives to miss the point. This isn’t really about Clarkson. It never was about Jeremy Clarkson the man. It’s about the things he represents: puerile humour, laddish banter, irresponsibility, political incorrectness, smoking, drinking, driving fast cars and enjoying them, admiring the military, kind of half wishing you could be in a war so you could test your mettle, practical jokes, taking the piss, saying things you’re not supposed to say, public school japes, calling one another by your surnames, bad hair cuts, not worrying about fashion, thinking Margaret Thatcher was great, thinking foreigners are funny, “racist” stereotypes, chauvinism, and so on.
Lots of people still think that way, even though they’re not supposed to. Now Clarkson’s gone there’s no one at the BBC – literally NO ONE, for the BBC has always been good at purging such people or making sure they never get a look-in in the first place – to speak for them.