Johann Hari: It's time to send Clarkson to the scrapyard

So he can feel an adrenalin rush, there has to be a blood-sacrifice on our roads
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The Independent Online

Ho ho. For Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and their army of Top Gear speedophiles, driving cars so fast they can smash a skull or kill a child has been a subject for uproarious laughter and acidic hate for years now. Clarkson has declared "speeding is no big deal" and shouldn't be punished with points on your licence. He has supported the gangs of thugs going around smashing the British speed cameras that have - according to independent studies - saved over 1000 innocent lives. And he has derided anybody who disagrees as a "health and safety Nazi". His acolyte "Hamster" Hammond said that because of these views, Clarkson should be made Mayor of London so he can "roar around London in a Lambourghini with a mayoral flagpole, shooting cyclists".

Now Hammond is lying in a hospital bed, lucky his life was not ended by this adolescent need for speed. I wonder if Clarkson, as he stared tearfully at the wounds of one of his best mates and comforted Hammond's wife and kids, thought back to all the times they have used Britain's massive death-toll from speeding as a glib punchline. Did he remember the column he wrote recently, in which he declared, "Of course, in France speeding is endemic and this means they have a far, far higher death rate than we do. But let's be frank here. You can't really judge a country by the number of people who don't die in car accidents"? Did he remember the snarling contempt with which he responded to pleas from the AA and some of Britain's most senior traffic cops to stop encouraging people to break the law? Does he see now why we "Nazis" try to slow cars down?

I have never engaged with Jeremy Clarkson's arguments in my columns, because he doesn't have any. I may as well engage with one of the Tweenies. He is merely the court jester for the Petrolhead death-cult, a far-right jokesmith gripped by an erotic obsession with inanimate metal objects . A man whose response to global warming is to deny its existence and brag that he leaves his patio-heater on 24 hours a day "just to wind up Greenpeace" is not a person to argue with; he's a person to ignore. But as he has learned in the past week, Clarkson's unserious statements can have very serious consequences.

The chief speedophile's campaign against speed cameras has vastly increased the number of people like his mate Hammond lying brain-damaged or broken in a hospital bed. It's hard to find a logical thread in Clarkson's opposition to the Gatso cameras. At times he claims he is angry because they don't actually save lives, but international studies showthat this is nonsense. Speeding has fallen by 40 per cent in areas with speed cameras - and that has huge consequences. If you smack into a child at 30mph, the odds he or she will die are 50 per cent. If you hit them at 20mph, their chances of dying fall to just 10 per cent.

When confronted with these basic facts, Clarkson switches his jabberings into a different lane. He begins to argue he opposes speed cameras because politicians have installed them simply to "pay for their junkets". But as Clarkson himself admitted last year, "recent figures show that Britain's 6000 Gatso cameras earned £110m last year but made a profit of just £12m". In governmental terms, that is a pittance. So ... they aren't "raking in money", then, are they Jeremy? That's because the government has installed the cameras for the reason they say they have: to save lives.

Then Clarkson is left to fall back on the case that he is a brave defender of the rights of ordinary people from a "1984-style" government. But the right of an individual to drive at 50mph doesn't weigh much against the right of a pedestrian not to be killed, and Clarkson knows it. That's why - when his mercifully unbroken back is against the wall - he confesses, "I don't curse speed cameras because of civil liberty issues. I curse them because they slow me down".

He describes speeding as a glorious aesthetic experience he is prepared to take massive risks to indulge in. This pure distilled glee is at the core of his hatred of speed cameras; the rest is just a rationalist sheen that is easily scraped away. But this makes it clear how purely selfish his defence of speeding is. So Clarkson and his groupies can feel an adrenalin rush, there has to be a blood-sacrifice on our roads that tops even the hellish death-toll jihadists have so far inflicted on us. (If this sounds like hyperbole, remember: the death toll from 7/7 is racked up every fortnight on our tarmac by Mullah Clarkson's soulmates.)

Of course, if these sad boy-men want to pay to go on private land and take risks with their own safety - as Hammond did in this instance - they should be allowed to, just as you are allowed to go mountaineering or chain-smoke or (in my case) eat too much lard. If Jeremy Clarkson wants to commit suicide, who are we to stop him? But these Top Gear toffs posing as Ordinary Blokes know the vast majority of their viewers will speed on ordinary roads, where they will smack into ordinary people. (Hammond thankfully seems to be recovering. Every year, 1000 of his fellow Brits never do.) Indeed, Clarkson brags about his ability to speed on real roads, saying he can find sustained "high octane red-line thrills" on Britain's standard-issue tarmac any day.

The rhetoric of this tiresome eunuch doesn't only blatantly encourage his viewers to speed; it has bullied and intimidated the government too. Richard Brunstrom, the chief constable of North Wales, explains, "police resources have slowly drifted away from road policing [over the past few years] because that is the government's intention". Even though the opinion polls show rock solid support for speed cameras-middle England mums don't want their kids mown down-the government is allowing this vocal, vacuous campaign to skew their priorities - and as a result, kids die.

And the BBC is giving it a swollen platform. Would they broadcast a show dedicated to the joys of money-laundering? Of course not; but money-laundering, for all its evils, is a far less serious crime.

Speeding is one of the biggest killers in Britain, and the BBC is giving it a prime-time advert. Jeremy Clarkson seems not to have learned from his friend's near-death, still raving at the weekend against "the environmentalists and... muddle-headed road safety campaigners" in the very articles where he described his mate's injuries. But his blindness is no excuse for the BBC's.

It's time for the corporation to send the rusty, dangerous old piece of scrap called Top Gear to the wrecker's yard - before it can maim and kill anyone else.

j.hari@independent.co.uk

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