As the General Election approaches UKIP seem to be fizzling out. This could be disappointing if you see them as the sole voice of the uneducated working class. All is not lost it seems because the vote for the educated, successful, middle-class equivalent of the party, epitomised by TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson is thriving.
His nervous employer the BBC is trying to get rid of him but an online petition calling for them to keep him in place has been signed by more than 400,000 people. The BBC describes this has “Clarkson having some support.”
UKIP may fade away in confusion but Clarkson, perhaps the only free voice left at the BBC, is in top form with huge numbers of dedicated supporters. I am not a fan of motoring programmes but I enjoy his well reported naughty remarks, his teasing of foreigners, by which he breaks almost the last social taboo, and his newspaper journalism. It does me good to know that I am not alone in this – far from it.
He has 4.5m Twitter followers, three million YouTube subscribers, while Top Gear, hated by lefties and feminists, is sold in 212 countries world – wide and brings the BBC at least fifty million in revenue a year. In 2007, it was brought to Australia; in 2008 it hit Russia. Korean and Chinese versions began in 2011, while the U.S. edition has been airing for years. Even the French have a version.
It’s been translated into Farsi, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Hungarian and Russian. People from Ghana to Guatemala and Moldova to Myanmar sit down to watch Clarkson and fellow petrol-heads James May and Richard Hammond, in a kind of middle-aged, souped up Last of the Summer Wine, drive tanks into lakes and drop pianos onto bonnets, making or breaking new cars with a double thumbs up or a withering put-down. Even the Top Gear magazine has a global circulation of nearly two million. Then there are the DVDs, books and his expensive arena tour tickets.
The mealy mouthed Corporation often have trouble with their stars. This usually involves some kind of sexual incontinence, or lewd, crude behaviour. This is not the case with Jeremy who has a good brain, doesn’t swear or make lascivious and prurient remarks, He doesn’t bother with double-entrendre and appears to be quite stable. The problem he poses the BBC is a very modern one – it’s all about what he says about other people.
For some reason he feels as unconstrained as a 1950s white Englishman; another Nigel Farrage. As BBC Director General Tony Hall said in a recent interview, ‘Jeremy Clarkson provides a completely different voice than what is normally offered by the broadcaster.’
He does indeed. He’s not a Guardianista, doesn’t bow before current shibboleths, is brave enough to make jokes and express his opinions, even about Labour politicians. How wonderfully pleasing to know that there is still a market for bad boy fun and games out there. He’s not cowed, sycophantic or scared of his bosses. If PC and petty bureaucracy manages to take over our homes, schools and workplaces, if feminist puritans finally close down Speakers Questions, Jeremy will still go on, just too successful and popular to be stopped. He alone lets us know that there is still some good old fashioned fun available out there.
If he does go, he will of course lose many millions and probably his latest arm candy, and we will get one of those other TV choices – Piers Morgan, Steve Coogan, Jimmy Carr; ambitious men with no real edge, a painful parody of themselves, and very safe.