Is this the end for Jeremy Clarkson?

Jeremy Clarkson is no stranger to race rows. While the BBC decides what to do with its out-of-control cash cow, Sean O'Grady explains why the car firms should steer clear

By now, most of us can list Jeremy Clarkson's more offensive recent utterances: the "n word", most unforgivably; the "slope" on a Burmese bridge; and, with Top Gear co-presenter Richard Hammond, playing Beavis to Clarkson's Butthead, those lazy, flatulent Mexicans. Plus an entire "special" that spent something like an hour taking the mickey out of the Indians.

This, though, is only the New Testament of the prophet Clarkson's lazy national stereotyping and borderline racism. There is, too, an Old Testament: Clarkson on Cars, a compendium of Clarkson's columns published by the right-on Richard Branson's Virgin books and sitting on a shelf at an Age UK shop near you. This volume came out in 1996 and the words would have been first published in the years before, so, yes, a good couple of decades ago. It's not Der Stürmer, but it is heady stuff, even by the standards of the time.

Even then we were definitely in a more enlightened, post-Bernard Manning, post-Enoch Powell era; think Ben Elton, the first series of Goodness Gracious Me and the salad days of Tony Blair. My point is that, far from Clarkson's recent antics being just another schoolboyish pushing at the boundaries of political correctness and all that, it actually speaks to a pretty unpleasant and long-established mindset.

So I would like you to savour Mr Motormouth's sentiments in their full vintage glory. (However, like flash photography on rolling news, I should issue a warning that you should look away if you're liable to have a fit when viewing such material.)

"If it turns out that a Malaysian customs officer cannot be bribed, I shall renounce Christianity and move to the Orkneys where, I'm told, everyone is Lucifer's best mate."

"We know also that the French are rude, the Italians are mad and the Dutch are a bunch of dope-smoking pornographers."

"Each Wednesday, I have to make a 120-mile journey from Nairobi, south London, to Bombay, near Birmingham."

"If you happen to be a homosexualist Cypriot, you cannot expect everyone in the whole borough to finance your perversion."

Read more: Clarkson denies using N-word in Top Gear footage
Clarkson begs for forgiveness over racism allegations

Lastly, I offer you this paradigm of multiculturalism from Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld: "My only experience of Vietnamese people was either at a restaurant in Fulham or as a lot of scuttling midgets in straw hats throwing hand grenades into Huey helicopters."

Are you cringing, Jeremy? If you are, then you might, just, however tenuously, understand the collective embarrassment the rest of us feel when you used the "n word" – although nowhere near the hurt that some will feel at such a loaded piece of language. Imagine for a moment that you are a typical car-loving 11-year-old boy, just attaining automotive puberty by putting a poster of a Bugatti Veyron on your bedroom wall.

You play Top Trumps and car-based computer games where you pretend you're punting a Porsche round the Nürburgring. You have endless playground arguments about Evos and M5s and GTIs. You avidly watch "the boys" on Top Gear. And you're black. I think it fair to say you might feel a bit disappointed when you see what your favourite BBC personality says when there isn't anyone black around.

As the BBC showed in the Jimmy Savile affair and in its painfully reluctant and lenient treatment of Jonathan Ross, it is all too ready to believe that its major stars are "too big to fail", to borrow a concept from finance. They aren't, of course, as countless supposed shock defections to ITV, from Morecambe and Wise to Adrian Chiles, show too well. Yet Clarkson represents a lucrative stream of global income for its commercial arm and leads the ratings for BBC2. The corporation's timidity is as understandable as it is wrong-headed. On the other hand, the licence-payer helps pay his wages. Perhaps a viewer boycott would help change their minds and make them do the right thing.

Most shame-faced of all should be the men and women who run the PR departments of the car companies. They are civilised and sensible people; they have cars to sell and, thus, to be filmed and, fingers crossed, praised by Clarkson – but they have corporate reputations to protect, too. I wonder what they make of the "n-word" affair in Detroit? And in Munich and Turin.

If I was running Toyota or Subaru's British activities, I'd be ashamed to see "my" cars in the infamous clip with the recidivist Clarkson. Commercial pressure from sponsors, advertisers and big companies is the most powerful weapon in a case such as this; remember how they humbled Tiger Woods and shut down News of the World. Clarkson shouldn't be so difficult to take down. Who's going to be first off the line in the race to ditch Jezza? BMW? Ford? Hyundai? Mercedes-Benz? Fiat? After what he once did to the Vectra, my money's on Vauxhall.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project