The BBC alone lost 4 million viewers on Sunday over the cancellation of a single Top Gear program, never mind the overseas viewers of now binned future programmes – a staggeringly wanton squandering of our license-fee. But the did-he-or-didn’t-he-hit-Oisin-Tymon saga is about far more than a bunch of BBC executives having the right to prove that their power is greater than the sum of the popularity of Jeremy Clarkson and the several million pounds of profit it has thrown away. King Canute at least confronted the waves in order to illustrate his impotence to the sycophants surrounding him. The BBC executives, or at least Danny Cohen (who suspended Clarkson), are apparently intent on proving the opposite to a left-wing phalanx at the BBC and millions of fee-paying viewers. Clarkson’s suspension is ultimately political.
The entire sorry saga actually boils down to the sanctimonious arrogance of Auntie in seeking to stand for the guardianship of all that it deems morally and politically correct in today’s Britain. As the story drags on it should become clear that it is not so much about Clarkson as about politics – left-wing one’s at that – whose tentacles reach deep into the BBC, and the image some of its top executives have of themselves. It is unfortunate, but probably not coincidental, for Auntie that the Clarkson epic broke in the middle of its attempt to portray itself as the custodian of the British democratic process in trying to shame David Cameron into participating in debates of its own design. As Lord Grade pointed out, the BBC was attempting to interfere in politics by seeking to shape the election agenda. By harassing Cameron into participating in debates it already knew he was not bound or wanted to take part in, it was shamelessly siding with Labour in a relentless attempt to discredit him.
These liberal-left politics that permeate the corporation are now emerging as the alarming subtext to what has happened to Clarkson. For anyone with a Facebook account it should be clear that despite the nearly one million signatures of a petition to reinstate Clarkson, thousands have a loathing for him that has nothing to do with the latest fiasco and everything to do with class hatred and envy. “I don’t hate (sic) him, I don’t care (sic) about him, I despise everything he stands for,” writes one Facebook contributor to scores of ‘likes’. For class warriors, Clarkson represents the stereotypical entitled public school product, arrogant and right-wing. And when the BBC’s Danny Cohen, it’s director of television, decided to summarily suspend him he was actually, according to A.A .Gill, TV critic and a friend of Clarkson’s, lancing the boil that the presenter had become for him over the years. Gill described Cohen as “right-on” and one of a clique in the BBC who try to use it promote their left-wing views. In March 2004 Clarkson took a swing at Piers Morgan and connected with the former Mirror Editor’s forehead and temple. The BBC ignored the matter and Morgan, joking, challenged Clarkson to a four-round boxing match at Wembley to settle their differences. Clarkson, a self-confessed coward, claimed a busy work schedule prevented him from taking up the challenge. It was a private, mutual dislike between the two that had been aired in public. OK, so Clarkson and Morgan were equally famous, did not work for the same program and were thus outside Auntie’s jurisdiction. But I very much doubt if the Top Gear suspension could have occurred in an independent, privately-run company. The questionable interference in an affair that did not take place on company property and outside office hours would have been far, far too expensive to deal with summarily and before knowing all the facts. Any privately-owned company would have waited at least for the last three programmes to be filmed to avoid an outcry from shareholders. Sadly for Top Gear fans across the world, the red mist of personal animosity and politics rather than Canute-like pragmatism appear in Cohen’s case to have taken precedent over the BBC’s interests as a public broadcaster with viewers. “The customer is always right” is unfortunately not a saying with which the BBC is in any way familiar.