Come on, Scousers – all this outrage at Clarkson is way over the top

I am no fan of his, but he has not offended the city of Liverpool

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The Independent Online

The only surprising thing about the Jeremy Clarkson-offends-Liverpudlians story is that, given the long and rich histories of both the Top Gear presenter’s rudeness and Scousers taking umbrage at any and every bit of criticism, the two have only just now collided, in February 2015.

I hope I can say this, as someone born and raised in Liverpool, who hopes she might possess some sort of diplomatic immunity from her fellow Scousers’ anger, but the response to Clarkson’s comments about the city, from the Liverpool Echo to the Mayor, has been ludicrously over the top.

This is what Clarkson wrote in his column in the Sunday Times: “I went to Liverpool last weekend and it was all very agreeable. There was a lot of postmodern urban-chic architecture and many museums, hotels and waterfront cafes. It looked really good. I liked it.” Gosh, he really knows how to wound, doesn’t he? Apart from this, he wrote, there were “one or two incidents that warrant a mention”. One was that when he asked for a kipper for breakfast in his modern, loft-style hotel, the waitress didn’t know what he meant. The second was that another waitress in another restaurant didn’t know what Tabasco sauce was. Admonishing himself for not trying to blend in, he wrote that ordering a rosé wine in Liverpool “is like a Liverpudlian strolling into the Savoy at teatime, in a shell suit, and demanding seven pints of vodka. He’s going to be shown the door. And I should have been shown the door too”.

Ok, so the Savoy comparison is a bit rude, but, given his high praise for the city earlier in his piece, does this really warrant the clamour from the Echo and Joe Anderson, Liverpool’s mayor, calling him a “buffoon” and wishing he would never come back? Yes, that’s right, finally get someone as hard to please as Clarkson to find our city “very agreeable” and tell him he is never allowed to step off the train at Lime Street station, imposing on him a sort of city-wide Scousewa. Brilliant diplomacy, that.

I am no fan of Clarkson, who was found last year by Ofcom to have deliberately used a racist term when describing an Asian man as a “slope” during an episode of Top Gear. But on this, much as it pains me to say it, he has not offended the city of Liverpool.

We Scousers should pick our battles. Fighting the monstrous injustice of Hillsborough, for example. Growing up in Liverpool in the Seventies and Eighties, I knew what it was like to be treated with disdain by a London-centric media and political class. In fact, as a 17-year-old I found myself caught in a picture published in The Independent on Sunday in 1991 alongside a pretty demeaning piece entitled “Liverpool: the City that Britain Failed”. Did I mount a lifelong grudge against the newspaper? No, I ended up writing for it (although some might see this as revenge).

Actually, Anderson’s approach as mayor – one of making Government cuts to the city’s budget work, rather than going to war against a Conservative Prime Minister like his militant predecessors did – has been laudable. He has worked with George Osborne to get Liverpool’s voice heard in the “Northern powerhouse” strategy. But his reaction, and the propensity of some – and it is only some – Liverpudlians to get outraged at every little bit of criticism of the city, is truly depressing. In this case, they were whipped up by the Echo who negligently and misleadingly left out Clarkson’s praise. Taking offence for the sake of it actually hurts the city because it reduces everything – the Hillsborough-related slurs, for example – to the same level. We cannot have a scenario where anyone in public life is forbidden from saying anything bad about Liverpool. We should be correcting the misguided stereotype about whingeing Scousers, not fuelling it.


The naked truth – a regular sauna could save your life

If there’s one stereotype we might all agree on it’s that British people, when faced with a sauna, do not share our Continental and Scandinavian cousins’ enthusiasm for nudity. I was skiing in Austria last week, and our hotel sauna was packed full of Danish, Swiss, Russian and Austrian après-skiers frowning at anyone who dared go in with a towel.

This Euro-nudity was too much for me, so I hid in a women-only sauna the size of a cupboard. But might the news that regular saunas lasting longer than 20 minutes halve the risk of heart disease make us Brits more interested in installing them in our own homes, as many do in Finland and Sweden?

I have never felt so healthy after a week of saunas so would love to have my own – but I would insist on doing it the British way.