Jeremy Clarkson in Jeremy Clarkson shock

Driving a wedge between right and left?


Plenty of outrage this week with Jeremy Clarkson forced to issue an apology for his rant about striking public sector workers.

In case you missed it, Clarkson’s latest outburst came on the ever-so-cosy The One Show, you can view it here along with the full context of what he actually said.

Essentially, when asked about the public sector strikes Clarkson said: “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”

He added: “I mean, how dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?”

Harsh words but this is essentially Clarkson’s act. Of course he was going to say something ridiculous – for that is what it is. Does anyone honestly think he thinks that? Sure he may well not agree with the strikes but does anyone actually believe he would organise a mass execution?

If you are going to book a “star” onto a magazine show to fill space, they are going to talk to their PR team and work out how best to leverage the opportunity. In all honesty, it probably happened that Clarkson’s team called them but the point is the only reason that the BBC has these celebs on is so they can either fill time or promote a BBC programme that is coming up. The radio is full of it too.  So, Clarkson will be hell-bent on saying something to be remembered by.

With the complaints to the BBC now over 21,000, the pressure for heads to roll has mounted but there are those that say the production team of The One Show (heard laughing uproariously in the background) knew about the remarks ahead of the interview. Clarkson has since apologised, with his mate David Cameron calling him “silly” (that rather flippant remark could return to haunt Cameron) and Ed Milliband calling them “disgraceful and disgusting”.

Clarkson has since told the Daily Mirror: “I support the strikers in the first part. I said it was like being in the 1970s, my favourite decade. Then I said, but this is the BBC so we have to be impartial, and I expressed an extreme version of the other side of the coin, neither of which I believe.

“I expressed two different views. Which one do I apologise for? I am just making fun of the BBC’s need to be impartial. Not about strikers. I wasn’t saying that strikers should be shot.”

I think there are actually two potential winners here. The strikers, who can leverage this moment to add further fuel to their movement, keep the awareness up and flush out the fence-sitters who always felt that something was wrong with the system and also..Clarkson. Clarkson will have calculated this as a PR gamble and it nearly backfired but for all the apologising he is winning. He has garnered loads of attention from people who do not read his column or watch Top Gear just in time for the Christmas DVD and book market. The people who never liked him will never like him. He doesn’t want or need to win them over.

Could he have been fired from the BBC? Maybe but again, there are always rumours about Top Gear finishing so even if it did, not a problem for Jeremy who would exit in a blaze of publicity.

The real potential loser (PR-wise) in all of this is the BBC who will stand accused of pandering to the right if they let him off or to the left if they crack down. They are meant to be impartial (a point Clarkson made before his rant) and it will be hard for them to distance themselves here. Clarkson wasn’t trying to sell his political ideology, he was trying to sell books.

I just wonder whether some of the proceeds might go towards the NHS he is so keen on shooting. After all, they did save his mate Richard Hammond’s life. I doubt he will do it but it would be the best PR move now for him and love him or loathe him, he normally gets it about right (for his ends).