So it’s the morning after the strike before. UK newspapers are full of reports about the public sector strike, plenty of opinion and some interesting facts too. Such as – 2 million workers joined the strike; 60,000 NHS operations were cancelled; security at Heathrow ran smoothly. Over 70% of schools were shut as shopping centres saw a welcomed hike in sales for the day. There was clearly much sympathy for the strikers although surveys produced wildly varying degrees of the level of support estimated.
But one story has grabbed the headlines today. Jeremy Clarkson went to extremes in registering his views on the industrial action on the BBC yesterday evening. For my overseas readers, Clarkson is the front man for an ‘amusing’ TV show focussing on motoring. He is famous for his outspoken and irreverent approach to life and has been described as a ’50-something petrol head’. I used to find his programme fresh and funny, but like so many successful franchises, he and his team have become a caricature of an overplayed genre. He is bombastic and insensitive and I could describe him as slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. I suspect he’s actually quite a pleasant person with little mal-intent but he certainly hid those virtues successfully last night.
During a prime time interview on the BBC ‘The One Show’, Clarkson shared his opinion on the strike saying ‘I would have them all shot’. Sadly, like a little boy who causes amusement when he does something naughty, Clarkson was encouraged to extend his tirade by the studio audience’s nervous laughter to continue ‘I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families’.
Jeremy – that was the point when you went too far.
The interviewers went pale and shifted uncomfortably on their sofa and the BBC hastily issued an apology, but the damage was done.
I believe that Clarkson should be sacked from the BBC, especially as during the same programme he confirmed his own special brand of bigotry by complaining about train delays ‘….because somebody has jumped in front of it and somebody has burst….why have we stopped? What’s the point in stopping? It won’t make them better’. No-one should get away with such offensive and upsetting remarks.
Unison, one of the unions leading the strike, is considering legal action following Clarkson’s outburst. As the post mortem on the effectiveness of yesterday’s walk-out continues, this row is taking centre stage and it’s ironic that Clarkson’s extreme comments have probably galvanised even more support for public sector workers.
If you are lucky enough to have a pension, Jeremy, I think it’s time you started drawing it.
Post script: (added 2nd December) I’ve had some interesting response to this blog, including a tweet telling me that I’m past my best too! Nice. As the discussions continue I note that many people think that Unison is over-reacting to Clarkson’s comments and that the British public is suffering from a sense of humour failure and should ‘get over it’. Interesting that the BBC has re-run the entire section of the Clarkson interview relating to the strike including his comment that he thought the strike was ‘great – especially as London is quiet and the restaurants weren’t busy’. Strange how they omitted to show the section where he was particularly offensive about suicide victims.
I loved a tweet suggesting that as Jeremy Clarkson and his co-presenter James May headed for China yesterday at the same time that two giant pandas are being transferred in the opposite direction – this was a good swap! But the most poignant and relevant view came from a close friend of mine who was advised that the appointment for his wife’s first chemotherapy treatment would not come through on Wednesday as originally planned due to the striking NHS booking clerks. He emailed me ‘On my way to work I drove past the hospital with pickets outside and for a brief moment was very tempted to plough into them. But Clarkson was still wrong to say what he did – he went too far and even though he obviously didn’t mean what he said, you couldn’t help but feel there was an element of his true feelings coming through’
Enough already – we need to get back to the real issue in hand. How do we build an affordable and efficient NHS with the public and private sector working in harmony?