The thousands who complained to the BBC about Jeremy Clarkson’s remarks on yesterday’s The One Show that public service strikers should be shot are almost as big oafs as the Top Gear presenter himself.
The country seems to have suffered a major humour by-pass all round.
Clarkson – in a clumsy, unfunny jest - gave his best impression of an outraged Daily Telegraph reader. In going over the top (his stock in trade), there are deluded types who, for reasons known only to themselves if we exclude stupidity, took Clarkson at his word.
The man’s apology was too slow in coming; he is, after all, paid handsomely by the public service BBC. But when he did, he asked for his words to be judged in context. Clarkson has a point.
Here is some of the transcript from The One Show as its presenters introduced him.
Matt Baker: Now, at the end of a day where Britain has seen some of its biggest strikes, what we need is someone calm and level-headed.
Alex Jones: Yep, a guest with balanced, uncontroversial opinions, who makes great effort not to offend.
Matt Baker: And we've got Jeremy Clarkson.
He came through with his “balanced” opinion about the strikers: “I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”
Rather than brush off Clarkson with a remark such as “What can you expect from one of the Prime Minister’s best friends?” Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison called down the wrath of the law, the police, and the BBC in demanding his head.
In doing so Prentis strengthened the Tory press stereotype of union leaders as po-faced, labour-speak automatons. I wouldn’t mind betting more Unison members watch Top Gear than voted for yesterday’s strike.
After the apology Prentis backed away from calling for Clarkson’s sacking inviting him instead to spend a day on a hospital ward.
Labour leader Ed Miliband couldn’t let the bandwagon pass without scrambling aboard. “Absolutely disgraceful and disgusting,” he declared. Words he used, more or less, in calling for Ken Clarke’s resignation – and about as effective.
David Cameron had a better grasp of the storm in a teacup. He considered it "obviously a silly thing to say and I’m sure he (Clarkson) didn’t mean that."
Later Downing Street, according to the Daily Telegraph, also issued a tongue-in-cheek statement. "Execution is not government policy and we have no plans to make it government policy," a spokesman is reported to have said.