Jeremy Clarkson sacked from Top Gear: David Cameron believes he must 'face the consequences of abuse'

Change in tone from Prime Minister after previously lending Top Gear star his public support

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The Independent Online

Downing Street was forced to row back on David Cameron’s stated support of sacked Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson this afternoon.

He now believes Mr Clarkson - a close friend and constituent of his - should “face the consequences” after a BBC inquiry concluded he punched one of the show’s producers .

This is a change in tone from when news broke about his suspension a couple of weeks ago, when the Prime Minister publicly backed Mr Clarkson by saying he “is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent”.

david cameron nancy rex.jpg
Nancy Cameron with her father David in November 2009

He also explained how his children would be “heartbroken” if Top Gear was taken off air and earlier this week he revealed how his daughter had threatened to go on hunger strike in protest against the BBC’s treatment of Mr Clarkson.

But speaking this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “If you do something wrong at work there will be consequences. Aggressive and abusive behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace or elsewhere. Jeremy Clarkson has to face the consequences of that.”

Jeremy Clarkson was sacked this afternoon

When the BBC interviewed Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha at his family home in Oxfordshire earlier this week, the Prime Minister revealed: "Nancy has threatened to go on hunger strike unless Jeremy Clarkson is restored.

"I’ve told her this is not necessarily a useful intervention. It’s not exactly Gandhi, we had a discussion about this this morning."

"It’s between lunch and tea is the way it works,” he joked.

Mrs Cameron added: "Nancy’s hunger strike this morning lasted approximately five minutes."

David Cameron revealed his children's love of Top Gear in an interview with the BBC's James Landale earlier this week

The BBC announced this afternoon it had decided not to renew Mr Clarkson’s contract after an investigation concluded he punched Oisin Tymon following a row over catering arrangements.

The inquiry, led by BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie, concluded that Clarkson verbally abused Tymon for 20 minutes before launching a 30-second physical assault on the producer at a luxury Yorkshire hotel.

A statement from BBC director general Tony Hall read: "It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract.  It is not a decision I have taken lightly.  I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.

"I am grateful to Ken MacQuarrie for the thorough way he has conducted an investigation of the incident on 4th March.  Given the obvious and very genuine public interest in this I am publishing the findings of his report.  I take no pleasure in doing so.  I am only making them public so people can better understand the background.  I know how popular the programme is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion.  The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

Tony Hall, the BBC director-general (Getty)

"I want to make three points.

"First – The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price.  Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect.  I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. 

"A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature.  For me a line has been crossed.  There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

Fellow Top Gear presenter James May has hinted he may leave the show too

"Second – This has obviously been difficult for everyone involved but in particular for Oisin.  I want to make clear that no blame attaches to him for this incident.  He has behaved with huge integrity throughout.  As a senior producer at the BBC he will continue to have an important role within the organisation in the future.

"Third – Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position.  This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC.  I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear.  Jeremy is a huge talent.  He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.

"The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016.  This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise.  I have asked Kim Shillinglaw to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months.  I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series."