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Jeremy Clarkson’s petty vitriol against Meghan Markle picks up where Piers Morgan left off

The former ‘Top Gear’ presenter criticised the Duchess of Sussex in a recent newspaper column, branding her a ‘silly little cable TV star’. It’s an outburst that’s as tired as it is predictable, writes Louis Chilton

<p>Jeremy Clarkson addressed Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah in his Sun column </p>

Jeremy Clarkson addressed Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah in his Sun column

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It has been nearly two weeks since Piers Morgan walked off air, if not quite out of our lives. After ranting on live TV about disbelieving a woman’s admission of suicidal thoughts, Morgan quit his presenting job on ITV’s Good Morning Britain amid a record-breaking number of complaints. The former editor of the Daily Mirror continues to argue his case to 7.9 million followers on Twitter, and is expected to sign a lucrative deal with Andrew Neil’s right-leaning TV channel GB News – lest anyone fear that the PC woke brigade had already cannoned him into the very outer reaches of space. But Morgan’s GMB exit has still left a gaping hole in our culture, one which needs filling with... what, exactly? Pus? Offal? Or, perhaps, Jeremy Clarkson.

Clarkson is no friend of Morgan’s: the pair reportedly came to blows during an infamous drunken encounter at the British Press Awards in 2004 (“He permanently scarred me above my temple,” said Morgan, “but the good news was he broke his little finger hitting my head because I’m that hard”). Still, he saw fit to defend his former nemesis in a recent opinion column in The Sun. In the piece, the ex-Top Gear host branded Meghan Markle – the object of Morgan’s vituperation – a “silly little cable TV actress”. “Markle’s toast,” he added, “and within five years, I suspect she’ll be posing for photographs, on her own outside the Taj Mahal or sitting on the back of a playboy’s yacht in the Med, and poor old Piers will realise that he lost his job over absolutely nothing at all.”

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to recognise projection when it’s this glaring. Clarkson’s own silly little TV career has been marred by scandals, including a history of homophobic, xenophobic, ableist and racist remarks. On Top Gear, he was filmed calling an Asian man a “slope” behind his back, and using the n-word while reciting a rhyme, in unaired footage that surfaced in 2014. His time on Top Gear eventually came to an ignominious end when he was accused of assaulting one of the series’ producers.

Clarkson has served as the host of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ since 2018

His career survived, however, and he is currently the host of The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on ITV. Like our current prime minister, Clarkson is a man who seems to demand you not take him seriously. He has always couched his offensiveness in a sort of boorish flippancy – which effectively works to minimise the severity of his objectionable behaviour. Boys will be boys, even when they’re 60 years old.

It certainly feels like a natural regression for Clarkson to wade into Morgan’s scandal – a like-for-like swap, one insufferable dogwhistler for another. Our national discourse is descending into a protracted quarrel for the final word, and Clarkson is able to pick up where Morgan stopped mid-sentence. The common insult among so many commentators on the right – that liberals are “snowflakes”, infatuated with their own delicate uniqueness – ironically communicates something about their own lack of originality. From Morgan, to Clarkson, to Nigel Farage, it’s all the same white noise, the same reactionary arguments being reproduced ad nauseum.

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In his column, Clarkson wrote that Markle is “much revered by the young and the stupid who believe that her brand of simpering victimhood will one day bring down the monarchy, but it won’t”. He is of course right that an interview with Oprah Winfrey will do little to topple a centuries-old hegemony, but wrong that Markle will fade into obscurity; a lucrative Netflix production deal means the Duchess of Sussex is pretty much set for the foreseeable future. As for the monarchy, they’d better watch out: Jeremy Clarkson standing by their side is just about the best case for republicanism there is.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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