Matthew Norman on Monday: Pity poor old Clarkson, his mind is simply not in top gear


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The Independent Online

Sorry to you all if what follows seems even more nonsensical than usual, and riven by inexplicable lapses in ... Where the hell were we? Ah yes. Apologies but, as The Mail on Sunday reported, "There were growing concerns yesterday about Jeremy Clarkson's state of mind," and truth be told I haven't had a wink for fretting about him. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep, but after a long and sensationally undistinguished career observing the media, I can't remember a more heinous case of persecution for a harmless Wildean thrust.

The Mail agrees that we need a sense of humour about his remarks – and if that organ struck a different pose over the Andrew Sachs prank call, what is consistency but the empty boast of the mediocre mind? The extent of Jeremy's turmoil was clear from his latest Sun column, in which the bison-headed sweetie shattered a myriad of ribcages with his aperçus on suicide. Being too distressed to follow the news, he clearly had no idea that Gary Speed's death rendered such merriment a trifle ill-timed. So today I call for a moratorium on Clarkson-bullying before he heads for the nearest Tube platform. What we are witnessing in slow motion is the public execution of a (BBC) public sector worker in full view of his family, and it shames every one of us who stands idly by and spectates.

Of thick skins and thin excuses

No one is better suited to nursing Jeremy through his long night of the soul than Alastair Campbell, the campaigner for increased sensitivity towards mental frailty who – cross his heart – never briefed no one nor nuffink nor not about Gordon Brown's "psychological flaws" and Mandy being doolally. Since Ali told the Leveson Inquiry about his "very, very thick skin", and that he couldn't care less what is written about him, it's tempting to dismiss him as a psychotic dry drunk thug with half the relish for the literal truth of Archerio, love child of a perjuring yet lordly novelist, and Geppetto's wooden son. Instead, let us remind Lord Leveson that a brother judge once preferred the elegant euphemism "an unreliable witness", and leave it at that.

Herman Cain wasn't quite able

A fond farewell to Herman Cain, the recent front-runner for the Republican nomination whose insights on domestic tax policy and Middle Eastern affairs drew so heavily on Benny From Crossroads' Guide To Presidential Campaigning. And his plagiarism didn't end there. During Saturday's withdrawal speech, Herman confided that an endlessly parroted self-improvement soundbite of his, as previously sourced to "a poet", was in fact lifted from a Pokémon movie. Who now dares ridicule the quality of the GOP field?

Jacqui Smith to show off her body of work

With courage beyond the call of duty, the pornography expert Jacqui Smith will appear on a forthcoming episode of Celebrity Mastermind. Others would have been scared off by memories of her old Labour colleague David Lammy, the then Higher Education minister who (among other triumphs) told John Humphrys that the Marie who won the Nobel Prize for discovering radium was "Antoinette". It remains unconfirmed that Jacqui's specialist subject is "The Life And Works of Ben Dover". Nor will we countenance the rumour that, during her general knowledge round, she answered that JFK was succeeded as President by Harry Truman. On the tiny offchance that she did, we remind Jacqui that LBJ isn't just the porno movie script acronym for Lovely Big Jugs.

The wit and wisdom of Dr Socrates

How sad to hear about Socrates, the chain-smoking medical doctor who captained the 1982 Brazilians (the greatest side not to win a World Cup). He may have died from intestinal problems rather than hemlock but, as John Motson put it, with that scandalously underrated spontaneous wit, he did sum up the philosophy of Brazilian football.

Observers of pessimism?

So seldom does this anniversary qualify as a major milestone that The Observer's self-indulgent coverage of its 220th birthday yesterday almost read like a subconscious cry of fear that it may not make it to 221. This cannot be so. It is inconceivable that the owning Scott Trust would kill our oldest newspaper. Such an act of brutality and cultural vandalism would lethally undermine every value for which its sister title The Guardian has always stood, and send CP Scott's coffin corkscrewing through the earth's core.