David Cameron has backed Jeremy Clarkson as it was claimed the suspended Top Gear host was involved in a “scuffle” with a BBC producer because he was offered a cold meat platter instead of a steak.
Cameron praised Clarkson as a "huge talent" and told BBC Midlands Today he hoped the situation could be resolved so his children would not be left "heartbroken".
Clarkson is alleged to have punched Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon during what the corporation described in an official statement as a "fracas".
"I don't know exactly what happened. He is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent,” Mr Cameron said.
"I see that he said he regrets some of what happened. All I would say - because he is a talent and he does amuse and entertain so many people, including my children who'll be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air - I hope this can be sorted out because it is a great programme and he is a great talent."
The Prime Minister refused to be drawn in on whether he thought the BBC was wrong to have suspended the controversial host, saying only: "I don't know what happened. Every organisation has to be able to be free to manage its talent and to say to people, 'you can do this', or 'you can't do that', so I don't want to interfere in the running of the BBC."
He added: "The Prime Minister has many responsibilities, sadly securing the future of Top Gear isn't one of them."
An onlooker at the alleged ‘fracas’ told The Mirror Clarkson was angered when he returned to the Simonstone Hall Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales after filming and was informed he could not have the steak he wanted because the chef had gone home. Instead, soup and a cold meat platter was reportedly available.
The unnamed witness claims Clarkson launched into a furious tirade using “every bad word you could think of”.
“When they arrived just after 10pm Clarkson got angry. It was more like a scuffle. But he did swear using every bad word you could think of.
“The producer stood there looking quiet and embarrassed. He was being blamed for not arranging hot food.
“The general manager ended up cooking himself for the three presenters.”
The witness said they all left the next day and Clarkson apologised.
Another local claimed Clarkson “didn’t like the idea of sandwiches and demanded the juicy steak”.
The Sun quoted a source described as close to the star denying that he had punched anyone.
Clarkson was reportedly served the £21.95 steak in a private dining room. There appeared to be little sign of any disruption from the night before in the visitors’ book, where a BBC crew member wrote the next day: “A wonderful, friendly and extremely accommodating stay. Superstars the lot of you. Thank you so much.”
A manager at the hotel confirmed to The Independent that Clarkson and the team had stayed at the hotel, but declined to comment any further.
The Mirror quoted Clarkson, when asked if he was concerned about losing his position at the BBC, as saying: "Well it's coming, isn't it? Honestly, it's very soon. Let's just let sleeping dogs lie for the moment."
On Wednesday, the 54-year-old joked about the furore as he left his flat in Kensington amid a media scrum.
He said: "I've been suspended haven't I? I'm just off to the job centre. At least I'm going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight." He was later photographed at the Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's game against Paris St-Germain last night.
Asked if his suspension was over a row about food he said "no, no, no" but said "yes" when asked if he had any regrets about what had happened.
It was reported that a BBC disciplinary panel has already been convened to decide his fate.
Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who conducted the investigation into Newsnight's false expose of Lord McAlpine, is to chair the panel, the Radio Times said, with witnesses expected to be called by the end of the week.
A formal disciplinary letter summoning the presenter to appear at the hearing is expected to be posted today.
A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client "intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete".
Meanwhile, a petition to re-instate Clarkson has garnered over 660,000 supporters.
Additional reporting by PA
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