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Why the Establishment loves Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy ClarksonPetrolheads everywhere, sob into your empty oil cans. For Top Gear is, as was, no more. The verdict couldn’t have been anything else. Whatever you might think about Jeremy Clarkson, which in my case is not a lot, it was impossible even for him to cling on to his job after a 20 minute tirade, followed by a 30 second assault – all because a steak dinner wasn’t available. At a stroke, Clarkson became a demi-god to babymen everywhere but cost him a prestige job and an international audience numbering in the tens of millions.

We know why Clarkson is feted by so many, but what I’m more interested in are the displays of solidarity from his establishment friends. Expense-fiddling Maria Miller blames the BBC for not dealing with “its larger than life characters” properly, as if somehow it is responsible for Clarkson’s punching out a member of staff. “How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following” tweeted Rupert Murdoch; “The BBC is like a distant planet. Alien and out of touch” scrawled Katie Hopkins in her Sun column last week, and Dave: “I hope this can be sorted out because it [Top Gear] is a great programme and he is a great talent.” By far the most egregious example comes from our good friend Louise Mensch, professional ex-MP, gobshite, and cheerleader for all that is rancid. Here’s a petard. Go hoist yourself with it, Lou:

What a risible spectacle. Is there a better demonstration of how deeply the view that laws and everyday common decency doesn’t apply to them runs among the entitled, hypocritical, and monied imbeciles clustering like coprophilic flies around Clarkson’s person?

Why though? Is it because the conservative establishment, whose raison d’etre is continued political dominance, are simply falling over themselves to help out a mate? Yes. And no. Clarkson’s establishment creds are very well-established, and nothing extra needs adding to that. There is something else that has left them deeply anxious, and it’s this: they’re losing. Conservatism as it stands now is time-limited and on its way out. Even if by an awful miracle they pull off a general election win, the decline will continue unabated. Dave’s calling time on his premiership presumptuously, the EU referendum, UKIP, and jockeying for life after Dave will ensure that a moderate, centre right makeover some are pleading for is not happening any time soon.

As their movement is in slow-mo collapse, so their cultural bastions are crumbling. Sure, in many ways the neoliberal charge Thatcher led in the 1980s is deeply embedded in the social fabric. Her attempt, shamefully aided and abetted in the Blair years, to encourage a cost/benefit homo economicus as everyone’s default mental apparatus, is still with us. It took a generation to bed down, and will probably take just as long to root out. Their moment of triumph is also the occasion of their historical defeat. It has become dislocated from the Conservative project.

In successfully encouraging Britain’s wage and salary slaves to look to anything but collective organisation based on class for salvation, increasingly large numbers merely treat work as a means to an end, an inconvenience to be got over with as quickly as possible so one can live. As the crisis posed capital by an unruly labour movement is resolved, so another starts to open around the legitimation of work itself. Hence why 1970’s-style radical workplace economism has comparatively little purchase, but likewise why the Tories and so-called Tory values have a hard time cutting through – particularly with younger cohorts.

Traditional family values, no. The mapping of Britishness onto whiteness, no. Overt stupidity and bigotry, no. Mean-spiritedness, increasingly not. The union itself, increasingly shaky. If we wish to flatter it, it’s telling that conservative intellectual firepower is all concentrated in the declining Tory press whose readership tends to be middle-aged-to-elderly. Apart from occasional stabs at tabloid telly, usually to rile up antipathy toward a powerless minority or those in receipt of benefits, our heavily mediatised cultural landscape is almost a no-go zone for conservative figures.

Clarkson stands out because he is part of a dying breed. There are few, if any, that command the genuinely wide following he does, and this is why the conservative establishment are squealing like a pig recently parted with its knackers. Their cultural standard bearers are dropping off the TV schedules and commanding zero following out there. When celebrities do come out as Tory supporters, like Gary Barlow did, they’re pilloried. Alternatively, there’s nothing at all wrong with burnishing one’s lefty, social justice creds a la Paloma Faith. The cling to Clarkson because, increasingly, he’s the only “non-political” figure they’ve got putting across their tedious, small-minded commonsense. They instinctively feel their Gramsci even if the left does not.

I’m sure Clarkson will wash up with his hangers on elsewhere. He is bankable, after all. Nevertheless, to be edged out of what probably remains the most trusted and well-respected broadcasting institution in the world is a significant devaluation of whatever collective cultural capital the conservative side of things have left.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. Clarkson will simply move on with his mates and top gear will be on again within six months. As with Jonathan Ross the BBC cannot control the big egos. They have a following and they will find plenty of companies that will employ them- the name may have to change as the BBC have the copyright, but that is all.

    Trevor FIsher

  2. David Ellis says:

    Nothing must get in the way of capital’s ability to do what it likes and the car is symbolic of that demand. It is two fingers up to rules and regulsation and a screw you to the environment and those concerned with it and humanity’s fate. Of course in reality the car has been transformed from symbol of democracy to absolute nightmare as traffic jams, road deaths, pollution, ever lengthy commutes make it more like a personal prison than a route to personal freedom. Clarkson’s vehicle, Top Gear, represents a bygone age of motors and empires which of course appeals to the conservative mindset.

    1. David Ellis says:

      In other words Clarkson represent humanity’s death drive. It’s proclivity for suicide.

  3. Chris says:

    He had to go, but Clarkson-hatred is such a cliché of the weak and wanky post-left.

    1. gerry says:

      Chris – Clarkson-hatred may be a cliche but it is also righteous and just..this wretched Tory multimillionaire hilariously positions himself as a victim of political correctness, while all the time behaving as the powerful and the wealthy have done since time immemorial by being rude, nasty and vicious to his “inferiors”. It is a bit ironic though that he finally gets sacked for verbal abuse and physically attacking of (deep breath) another white man! Shocking white-on-white violence here – and his victim has said that he was” proud” of working for 10 years on Top Gear, that shameless vehicle for all sorts of racism, stereotyping and sexism…you really couldn’t make it up?

  4. Chris says:

    One, I don’t think you should be trying to justify hating other people.

    Two, the idea Top Gear is “racist” or “sexist” is laughable and it’s thinking like that keeps the left in a pathetic, perpetually offended ghetto.

    1. gerry says:

      Chris – I am proud to say that I hate Clarkson and his ilk: this is Left Futures you know, not the Daily Sieg Heil! Anger and hate is an important political energy and the day Leftists like me stop hating injustice, oppression, racism, and the Tory powerful will be on my last day on earth.

      And Top Gear is all I have said and worse – but of course I wouldn’t ban it because it does resonate with lots of like minded people, and nor am I “offended” by it, but I will tell it like it is and call its vicious racism and sexism out: deal with it, Chris.

      1. Henry says:

        Clarkson is right. He’s a victim. Not a victim I feel sorry for by any means, but a victim nonetheless. The reason it upsets me is because if it can happen to a toff then it can happen to you. This mindset of yours, about “vicious racism and sexism” cuts both ways. One day *you*, or your offspring, or one of your friends could be sacked – could be dealt severe economic damage, because one of their colleagues couldn’t handle being called a name.

        Is that the society you want? The one that you could imagine the future of humanity living in, say, 3000AD?

        I don’t wish to even imagine such a world. The right for men to make up their own minds about the truth and seriousness of the claims of other men *must* come into effect in the future. Else we’ll end up with a world where the police could arrest you for the crime of ‘improper thought’.

  5. Henry says:

    Socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality, but Phil here doesn’t seem to get it. He defends Labour’s undemocratic, authoritarian status quo, supports censorship, and posts opinion-filled hit piece yellow journalism that I get tired of reading. Why he continues to write for Left Futures I have no idea. He doesn’t share the same values at all, and I’m sure that Left Unity’s media department would lap his hypocritical, censorious, spin-filled tripe right up. Why not write for them instead?

    I’ve caught him on numerous occassions using words like “social justice” or “babymen” and it just makes me cringe. Please, Phil. For the love of Jesus and Buddha and whatever else, stop being such a self-loathing male, and start defending free speech not just when it’s convenient for you but when it’s *inconvenient* for you.

    The worst part of it all is that it proves I have more in common with Clarkson than I do with Phil who’s supposed to be rational and left-wing. Because Clarkson’s at least got his mind set on free speech, even though he’s a toff who loses his rag over a steak dinner.

    1. gerry says:

      Henry – your posts are a touch confused, to put it mildly!

      As a leftie I of course loathe the powerful Tory establishment of which Clarkson is the poster boy

      As a leftie I love free speech especially that which takes on the rich and the powerful and the mighty

      As a leftie I loathe Top Gear and the sad Loaded/Lad culture of which it is a part – but am not “offended” by its racism, stereotyping and sexism and exercise my free will by generally not watching it! Clarkson can say what he likes – and I can also call him out over what he says.

      And Henry – he was sacked for abusing and then punching another white man, albeit an “inferior” member of his team: that is hilarious and ironic to me: what a poor ” victim” he is…

      1. Henry says:

        He was sacked for a string of unacceptable opinions followed by one incident unacceptable behaviour. Admittedly, that behaviour was pretty serious. But there’s no point in pretending that “rules are rules within the BBC” nor any point in pretending that they’re a bastion of morals. Why? Because if they really cared enough about equality (to the extent that they’d chop off their own nose to spite their face) then they wouldn’t pay their staff such disparate wages in the first place.

        Sacking Clarkson was an ideological decision fuelled in the majority in my opinion by his speech having been deemed “wrong”. That’s why I’m angry.

        “As a leftie” I’m a civil libertarian. Speech needs to be free for the little man to stand up to corporations, and if Clarkson takes advantage of that then I’m in no position to say “Sorry, not you mate. *You* can’t have it.” I can’t pick and choose when speech should be free whenever it’s convenient for me, because convenient speech doesn’t need defending. It is only the inconvenient and the disagreeable that needs defending.

        The BBC is guilty of far worse “injustice, oppression, racism, sexism”, etc than Clarkson. Sacking him was hypocritical, and it’s merely provided me with yet another reason to oppose the company. I don’t read their news and don’t watch their shows so they’ve become utterly redundant.

        Why don’t you call the BBC out seeing as you were handed the chance? Why does Top Gear/”sad lad culture” bother you more than the corporation does?

        1. gerry says:

          Henry – you make some good points. Like you, I am not a fan of the BBC either and have called them out many times about their many fai!ngs – huge pay at the top, establishment bias, etc.

          I love free speech but people like Clatkson can look after themselves, and so I don’t waste my pity on him…he can sound off anytime in his Sun column and no doubt he will be back on our screens soon enough via Sky or another broadcaster

          So don’t be angry about his departure, Henry – I am beginning to think he planned this sequence of events! Nick Cohen in the Spectator called it right: when a right wing establishment figure like him cries “victimhood” then the world is really turned upside down.

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