Jeremy Clarkson’s humour is often on the edge, but he’s not a racist

In the time I have spent with Clarkson, I have heard him espouse all manner of right-wing nonsense - but never anything even borderline racist

 

Share

I am not terribly interested in motor cars, and to prove it I own the most unremarkable car in Britain, a second-hand Volkswagen Passat. I’ve never desired a sports car as a badge of my mid-life crisis, and Grand Prix racing bores me rigid. I even admit that I’m not a very good driver, of which more later. I am not, you’d be correct to assume, part of Top Gear’s natural constituency. I hardly ever watch the show, although when I do I find it diverting, and I can certainly understand why it’s one of the BBC’s major money-spinners at home and abroad.

As we all know, there’s one big reason for Top Gear’s success. Jeremy Clarkson is a phenomenon, a one-man, turbocharged iconoclast whose nerveless presentational style, wicked humour and outspoken views have turned him into one of Britain’s pre-eminent and controversial performers. Imagine Top Gear without Clarkson and you’ll see how much of a driving force (sorry) he is in a programme that gives pleasure to many millions.

But that is not the whole story. Rarely a day has passed recently without Clarkson’s mug dominating the pages of other (inferior) newspapers. He’s a racist! He’s an adulterer! He’s a disgrace! I know Clarkson, and see him from time to time in a social context. I’ve been to his house, and in fact once crashed into his prized Ford GT, which he had parked, rather irresponsibly I thought, in his own driveway.

In the time I have spent with Clarkson, I have heard him espouse all manner of right-wing nonsense. He and I don’t think the same on virtually any subject. But I’ve never heard him utter anything that was even borderline racist, nothing that gave me pause to think that he was other than a very amusing cove with a host of – to my mind – crackpot views.

But over recent days, he’s had to apologise for using the N-word, and is being investigated by Ofcom for use of the word “slope” to describe an Asian man. In between, he’s had his private life raked over in the public prints (he is estranged from his second wife, and his first wife helpfully gave her overview of his marital situation).

Obviously, the  N-word is as offensive as it gets. Was it wrong for Clarkson even to mumble that word? Yes. But does that constitute racist behaviour? Of course not.

The use of the word “slope” as a derogatory term was neither funny nor clever. It’s right that Top Gear’s producer should apologise. One of the things that makes Clarkson funny and clever is that he lives on the edge. Occasionally, he topples over. Does that make him a racist? Of course not.

In a culture where the bland leads the bland, Jeremy Clarkson is an awkward customer, a man who speaks with an authentic voice, who entertains, and who also says lots of things with which we might not agree. We should preserve him for the nation.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing