Jeremy Clarkson row dogs strike talks


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The Independent Online

BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson remained at the centre of a storm of protest tonight despite apologising for saying striking public sector workers "should be shot".

The Top Gear host, who made his controversial comments during BBC1's The One Show last night, said he did not intend the remarks to be taken seriously.

The BBC also offered an apology and said the item "wasn't perfectly judged", following widespread condemnation by unions, politicians and viewers.

Unison, which had threatened legal action over the comments, welcomed the apology and invited the presenter to join a healthcare assistant to experience the "reality of daily life" on a hospital ward.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "We are pleased Jeremy Clarkson has seen the error of his ways. It is only right the he apologises for the huge offence he caused to public sector workers and their families.

"We would like to invite him to spend a day on a hospital ward, with one of our healthcare assistants. They do vital work caring for patients - cleaning up sick, bathing patients, and wiping bottoms. We think he has many of the personal skills necessary for the job."

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband were among those who took a dim view of the words uttered by the TV presenter and columnist, which attracted almost 5,000 complaints from viewers.

Mr Clarkson said: "I didn't for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously - as I believe is clear if they're seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologise for it alongside them."

The BBC said: "The One Show is a live topical programme which often reflects the day's talking points. Usually we get it right, but on this occasion we feel the item wasn't perfectly judged. The BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused."

During the programme, Mr Clarkson said of the strikers: "I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.

"I mean, how dare they go on strike when they've got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living."

The GMB said the apology was not enough, revealing it planned to organise a picket against Mr Clarkson, who was abroad today filming for Top Gear.

National officer Bert Schouwenburg said: "GMB works with trade unions representing employees on banana and pineapple plantations in Latin America where activists have met exactly the fate that Mr Clarkson describes.

"In Guatemala, for example, 50 trade unionists have been murdered since 2007, the last of these in October when Pablino Yaque Cervantes was shot and killed in broad daylight.

"If Mr Clarkson has an ounce of humility he should publicly apologise and make a substantial donation towards the education of poor Mr Yaque's fatherless children."

A spokesman for the Rail Maritime and Transport union said: "This is the half-hearted apology of a scumbag trying to save his job and the fat salary we all cop for as BBC licence payers. Clarkson is a repeat offender when it comes to spouting offensive right-wing garbage and is little better than the English Defence League with a dodgy perm."

Meanwhile, a Government minister said today there was a "very realistic possibility" of reaching a deal on public sector pensions despite the huge strike by workers and threats of more industrial action.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said he believed there was a "good chance" of reaching agreement, adding that there was still a lot of detail to be discussed with the unions.

Education Secretary Michael Gove met teaching unions today, describing the talks as "cordial and constructive", with officials saying the two sides were discussing "detailed, technical elements" of how a new teacher pension scheme would work.

Talks on the NHS scheme will be held tomorrow and further discussions are expected in the coming weeks.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said she approached today's talks in a "positive" way and would continue to work in good faith to find a negotiated settlement to the Government's planned pension reforms.

"If we cannot make progress we may need to consider further strike and other action alongside our colleagues in other unions where appropriate," she said.