The Top Gear host's fate was sealed when he punched a co-worker. But the papers blame the BBC.
Political correctness, it is said, has gone mad. It seems you can’t even punch a subordinate any more for fear of offending the loony Left. Why don’t they lighten up?
Depressing as it has been to read the weird defences of Jeremy Clarkson, after the BBC decided not to renew the Top Gear host’s contract over his punching his producer, worse is the attempt by some newspapers to paint him as the victim of a left-wing BBC plot.
Efforts of this nature have not been limited to Twitter and cranks like Rod Liddle. Today’s Times said Clarkson has been ‘sacked for more than his own idiocy’. Apparently it’s all down to Danny Cohen, the BBC’s director of television:
“Cohen, a fixture of the north London metropolitan elite, was keen to have the presenter removed after the most recent Top Gear controversy.
“He and Clarkson are like chalk and cheese – or steak and tofu. Clarkson, politically incorrect, shooting from the hip, unafraid to ruffle feathers, stands in stark contrast to Cohen’s cerebral background.”
(The Mail also ran a piece about Cohen recently in its Clarkson coverage with the same ‘north London’ wink wink tone about the Jewish TV executive. The Times adds that Cohen is married to academic Noreena Hertz and is friends with Nigella Lawson and Rachel Weisz.)
The Right’s charge-sheet against Cohen includes his ruling that BBC panel shows should feature at least one woman, and his public objection to Clarkson’s use of racial epithets like ‘slope’ and ‘nigger’. Apparently these are left-wing positions. (Notice how pinched and conventional the hip-shooters and feather-rufflers get when it comes to women and ‘minorities’.)
The Times leader column joined in:
“[T]he corporation’s senior managers, chief among them its director of television, Danny Cohen, seized a chance to rid themselves of a star they never really liked nor understood.”
Though it agrees that ‘hitting a colleague is never acceptable’, the Times says the BBC overreacted, ‘sacrificed £50 million in annual revenues’, lost a popular show and could have suspended Clarkson and slapped him with a ‘heavy fine’.
The Times did run a counter piece by David Aaronovitch, but no such balance can be found in the Sun. The fellow Murdoch-owned tabloid said Clarkson is ‘hurt and upset’ over his sacking, and ran a string of vox pops called ‘Your Verdict’, all of which were pro-Clarkson. Its leader column said the BBC has ‘given the finger’ to licence-fee payers:
“Left-wing BBC executives, already itching to rid themselves of someone so politically incorrect, pounced on it [the punch] and turned it into an international incident. […]
“Its bosses say they had no choice. That it had nothing to do with politics. It’s just a coincidence that lefties everywhere are uncorking the bubbly because Clarkson, a Tory whose popularity is an affront to every belief they hold dear, finally got his comeuppance.”
And it’s not just the Murdoch papers pushing this line. The Telegraph’s leader column wailed: “The loss of perhaps the BBC’s last big right-wing personality will only compound the popular image of a corporation dominated by the metropolitan Left.”
Of course, there’s no mention in the Sun and the Times of Clarkson’s friendship with Murdoch’s goddaughter, Rebbekah Brooks, and David Cameron, Murdoch’s horse in the general election.
In other words, never mind the ‘north London metropolitan elite’, what about the Chipping Norton elite who actually have power, with links to a press baron and the prime minister?
Rumours Murdoch is thinking of hiring Clarkson for future car-themed television may also play a part in the coverage.
In some ways, the papers are right to blame the BBC. The corporation has been far too lenient with this overpaid bully, and allowed him to think he could do what he liked. But the charge of political bias could just as easily be made against these papers. After all, Clarkson’s status as a right-wing totem and promoter of reactionary views is betrayed in all the quotes above.
But in reality, Clarkson was sacked and faces police investigation not because of some left-wing plot, or because he challenged taboos, but because no-one should be able to behave as he did, at licence-fee payers’ expense, and expect to get away with it.
As BBC director Tony Hall said very well:
“The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. […]
“There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.”
‘Decency and respect’. Are even these conservative values to be jettisoned now in the name of smashing political correctness?
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.