John McCririck is suing Channel 4 - but it's not age that holds him back, it's aging attitudes

John McCririck can’t complain about “ageism” at 72. The real problem is a certain sort of baby boomers who just can’t let go


Those looking for amusement in the dreariness of the winter news could do worse than follow the progress of the racing pundit John McCririck’s lawsuit against his former employer, Channel 4. Like many public figures who pride themselves on their political incorrectness, the studiously eccentric former bookmaker has ended up taking refuge in the very culture he has always mocked. Claiming “loss of future earnings, unfair, career-damaging public humiliation, stress and mental anguish”, he is claiming £500,000, and will seek a further £2.5m for what he calls “the feared scourge of our society” – ageism. He is 72.

It will be an interesting test of the 2010 Equality Act. Any decent person will feel sympathy for a fragrant female TV presenter cast aside as soon as she acquires a wrinkle or two. To support a truculent traditionalist whose trademark has been his own bigotry is rather more difficult.

The case reveals how tricky the question of ageism can be. The fact is, the reason why this man has become painful to watch is closely bound up with his age. He represents a kind of broadcasting which has, thank goodness, become outdated: the leers of a minor public-school bully masquerading as humour, silly clothes attempting to suggest personality, the tediously predictable sexism of a saloon-bar bore.

Tanya Stevenson, McCririck’s ever-professional sidekick, was never given a name by him. She was “Female”. During a studio discussion, he once waved a mug bearing the words “Lay of the Day” in her direction. “Does this refer to you, Female?” he asked. There is a case for allowing fools to reveal their foolishness in front of the cameras, but when that fool is under contract and prejudice is part of his act, tolerance begins to look like approval.

If  the case comes to court, Channel 4’s lawyers will probably argue that McCririck stands for a type of gambling that is now outmoded. Today (shamefully, many would say), having a bet is mainstream – designed to appeal to all ages and genders. They could add that the joke of having a pundit who bellows at the camera and has mutton-chop whiskers (a sure sign of humourless self-importance) has palled after nearly three decades.

If they were feeling brave, they should admit that age is indeed a factor. McCririck has had a good run for his money, appearing regularly and touting his dubious personality around the reality-show circuit, but now he is little more than the unacceptable face of nostalgia. It is not his age at issue but that of his TV persona, with old attitudes and old jokes. His days as a veteran handicapper turning out year after year to compete in the Dodgy Celebrities Handicap Chase are over. It is time for him to be put out to grass.

React Now

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London