Diary: Can Cameron tolerate the latest bout of Clarkson crassness?


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The Independent Online

There may come a time when Jeremy Clarkson is such an embarrassment that David Cameron will have to stop being matey with him. Clarkson's suggestion that public-sector workers should be lined up and shot for going on strike did not quite do it, because Cameron could point out that he was joking. But the Top Gear presenter has now succeeded in embroiling the Prime Minister in a diplomatic contretemps with India, one of the world's fastest-growing markets.

The Indian High Commissioner has protested this month about the Top Gear Christmas Special, which featured Clarkson and chums cavorting around India, getting up to jolly japes such as traipsing a banner along the side of a train proclaiming "The UK promotes BRITISH I.T. for your company", which was torn so that the letters "BRITI" disappeared. Geddit? A similarly staged mishap caused the final three letters to vanish from a banner saying "Eat English Muffins".

"The programme was replete with cheap jibes, tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity," a letter from the High Commissioner to the programme producer, Chris Hale, complained. "We strongly protest and expect the BBC to make amends, especially to assuage the hurt sentiments of a large number of people."

This need not have involved the Government but for the fact that David Cameron is Jeremy Clarkson's neighbour and buddy, and made a cameo appearance at the start of the film. He was seen stepping out of 10 Downing Street, waving to Clarkson and his fellow hosts, who were filming in the street, and calling to them: "Stay away from India."

"The BBC are able to film in Downing Street as are other broadcast companies," the Prime Minister's spokesman said. "They were in the street and he was leaving for an event. The Government is not responsible for editorial decisions made by the BBC or any media organisation. This is a matter for the BBC."

It's the IPSA-bitty details that count

It cannot be said precisely how much IPSA, the body that oversees MPs' expenses, saves the taxpayer, because that would involve guessing how much MPs would be claiming if IPSA was not there to restrain them. But in 2008-09, when IPSA did not exist, their claims totalled £95.6 million; the 2010-11 figure was £70.6 million. This suggests that although IPSA is an expensive quango, with administrative costs expected to be £6.4 million in the current year, it is a cost saver, no matter how much it annoys MPs. And IPSA officials are showing a commendable attention to detail. Figures released yesterday show that they saved the taxpayer 20p over the summer by spotting that the Liberal Democrat MP John Leech had claimed £14.42 for a mobile phone bill when the accompanying receipt was for only £14.22.

SamCam miffed at date with a Dane

David Cameron has revealed that he watched part of series two of The Killing (starring Sophie Gråbøl) – episode nine of which is set in Afghanistan – on the long flight to Afghanistan. Samantha is cross, he told The House Magazine (the trade journal for MPs), because she had not seen them. "I got a couple of episodes ahead and I've not been forgiven," he claimed.

Another sensitive political tweeter

Conservatives on Hull City Council, on Humberside, have been rendered leaderless after another public figure fell victim to the perils of Twitter. At the end of a debate had been enlivened by the presence of a group of disabled people protesting about cuts in services, the council's Tory leader, John Fareham, tweeted: "15 hours in Council today very hard-hitting day and the usual collection of retards in the public gallery spoiling it for real people." He has been suspended from the council for 20 weeks.

Big noises from a small state

I promised yesterday to reveal the names of two famous people linked to the tiny short-lived state of Ruthenia, now in the Ukraine, for those who did not already know (or do not have a copy of Norman Davies's Vanished Kingdoms to consult). The answers are Ondrej Varchola – Americanized to Andrej Warhola, or Andy Warhol – born in Pittsburgh to immigrant Ruthenian parents, and Jan Ludvik Hoch, born into a family of orthodox Jews in a small Ruthenian town. He is better known as Robert Maxwell.