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You, me and Jeremy

Private Eye's latest Clarkson cover

There was a strange inevitability to Jeremy Clarkson's downfall

Farewell then, Jeremy Clarkson. Or at least farewell from the BBC.

The corporation has confirmed it has sacked the Top Gear star after he physically assaulted producer Oisin Tymon.

I can’t argue with this: I wrote last week that if the account of the altercation, in which Clarkson apparently called Tymon a “lazy Irish cunt” was true, then “this is racially aggravated assault, no different than if Clarkson had abused a black, Asian or Jewish colleague.”

No employer can allow that. Or at least, no employer should allow that.

Clarkson will go on to a new show somewhere else, obviously. Where? Who knows. It will likely come down to who can provide the international reach BBC Worldwide does for Top Gear, and that’s probably Netflix or Sky. But that’s an issue for media business analysts to ponder.

I won’t particularly rejoice over the end of Clarkson’s reign on the BBC: I never got into Top Gear, but lots of entirely reasonable people do, and I can recognise a show that’s well put together for its audience even if I’m not the audience.

What’s interesting, for me, about the latest Clarkson incident is the question of how much of it is part of a self-perpetuating phenomenon, where, egged on by an adoring audience and a BBC delirious with ratings and international sales, the Top Gear gang felt the need to be ever more Top-Gear-ish. That certainly seemed the trend with the shows themselves: from sobre motoring reviews, to minor laddish bants, to attempting to start a war with Argentina, the show’s (d)evolution was indulged and encouraged.

One wonders how it feels for Clarkson and his compadres May and Hammond. The stories of Vitamin B injections to prop their hungover systems on shoots up are kind of grim. Jeremy Clarkson is 54 years old. He must at some point get tired of being “Clarkson”.

I remember thinking this back in 2011, when Clarkson got in trouble for suggesting that striking workers should be executed. What actually happened was this: While appearing on the One Show, Clarkson joked that he enjoyed strikes because it meant the roads were clear of traffic. Perhaps sensing that this statement was not sufficiently Clarksonian, he then added, “for balance” that striking workers should be executed in front of their families. Cue outrage. I wrote about the outrage, suggesting perhaps it was about as sincere as Clarkson’s “view” that workers should be executed. I went on BBC Breakfast with a trade union spokesman, and we both ended up telling Susanna Reid and the nation’s TV-watching-cornflake-munchers about countries where protesters and striking workers actually are shot. Even the union rep and I walked out of the BBC studio agreeing that Clarkson had been useful to us.

We’d all got something out of the performance. But Clarkson is the one who has to maintain it. I’m not suggesting that his private self is devoted to beekeeping, visits to old folks homes and quiet contemplation, merely that perhaps, when so many people had so much invested in the Jeremy Clarkson persona - the Clarksona, if you like - then it was bound to end up in the most Clarksonian debacle possible: a drunken row over a steak in a country hotel.

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.

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