Janet Street-Porter: Two dinosaurs, two outdated world-views

Wednesday 05 November 2008 01:00

Like quite a few people, I can't stomach Jeremy Clarkson. He makes my flesh creep. But there's an easy way not to let him ruin my day – I don't buy the newspaper he writes for and when his name graces a television programme, I reach for the remote. When his best-selling books are piled up at WHSmith, I just walk right past them. You can watch Clarkson mouthing off about prostitutes and lorry drivers on the BBC's iPlayer if you missed it last Sunday, but truly, life's too short.

My real problem with Top Gear isn't Clarkson's loud shirts or his contrived blimpishness, but the studio interludes where three self-satisfied middle-aged chaps pretend they are chat show hosts – the stilted result makes one yearn for Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton, and sod their multimillion pound pay packets. Michael Parkinson and Paul O'Grady are infinitely more graceful with words. I accept that millions watch Clarkson because he embodies the mind-numbing ordinariness you get in every pub, and that's why I spend very little time in public bars. It doesn't make me a snob, just selective. But the BBC is right to give him airtime.

Hundreds of people have emailed and telephoned complaints to the BBC about Clarkson's remarks last Sunday, when he pondered what lorry drivers might be interested in, and added "murdering prostitutes? Fuel economy?" Funny it's not. Worth an Ofcom inquiry? Hardly. Clarkson has form when it comes to dishing out insults – over the years he's picked on ramblers, vegans and homosexuals. He was reprimanded by Ofcom in 2007 for calling a Daihatsu car "a bit gay, yes – very ginger beer". Gay was fine, but the creaky mockney slang was considered one joke too far, with Ofcom ruling that there was "no justification" for the remark, leaving Clarkson to continue trashing women, prostitutes, lorry drivers, walkers and anyone who disapproves of hunting.

The BBC say Clarkson's lorry driver comments "were not intended to cause offence", but the reverse is true. Jeremy Clarkson's whole raison d'etre is to cause as much offence as possible. He calls it having strong opinions – critics view them as uninformed bigotry, but even bigotry is allowed a place in modern society. What Clarkson is not is a sophisticated satirist – he'd never last five minutes on the staff of Private Eye.

John Prescott and Jeremy Clarkson are clowns mired in attitudes of the past, both claiming to represent the views of "ordinary man". Prezza sees life in terms of a class struggle, whereas in the real world things are very much more complicated – and most of us more adaptable than he is. Clarkson similarly adopts a black and white approach to the countryside and the environment. Ramblers get described as "ridiculous" people who wear "noisy clothes and stupid hats". My name (as former president of the Ramblers Association) is touted as an example of all that's wrong with walkers.

But there's a serious issue at stake here. Clarkson unsuccessfully campaigned against the right to roam and the opening up of the countryside for millions of people to enjoy. As he is a rich landowner, that's predictable – it just makes his claim to be ordinary rather hollow. For over two years now, Mr and Mrs Clarkson have fought a lengthy legal battle to get a public footpath moved off their £1m estate on the beautiful Langness peninsula in the Scilly Isles, where locked gates now block a route used by locals for generations. Clarkson claimed that people were staring into the kitchen window in his lighthouse cottage, and diverted the path without planning permission.

The locals are divided – but I know whose side I am on. Walking, unlike driving a noisy car, doesn't pollute the countryside and harms no one. I hope the peaceful walkers on the Scilly Isles win their campaign and are able to walk around their coastline without encountering Mr Clarkson or his barricades.

Jenkins proves to be a typical prima donna

The Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins has undoubtedly been advised to reveal her drug-taking past – cocaine, hash cookies, MDMA and ecstasy – to scupper the chances of anyone selling stories about her antics to the tabloids and harming her recent £6m deal with Warner Music.

In spite of her anodyne image relentlessly pushed by a high-powered PR team, I found La Jenkins a self-centred diva when we both appeared on ITV in Britain's Favourite View with Sir Trevor McDonald last year. Jenkins went everywhere backstage surrounded by a flotilla of helpers, endlessly re-spraying her hair and dabbing at her face until the last moment before she stepped in front of the cameras.

Luckily, the public chose the winning view of Wastwater in the Lake District, championed by the lovely Coronation Street actress Sally Whittaker, and Jenkins was completely upstaged.

Happiness is a well-packed lunchbox

Want to save another £120 towards Christmas? Open the fridge and concoct packed lunch from leftovers. That's the latest idea from Love Food Hate Waste campaigners, who claim that we chuck out about the same amount of lunch ingredients that we pay an average of £3.33 for each day.

Sales of lunchboxes are soaring, but only a third of us actually bother going to the trouble. I have suffered inedible pub grub, unspeakable meat sandwiches and dodgy sushi filming on location, so nowadays I always take my own lunch, even if it means hiding the huge amount in the container from nosey onlookers. Home-made does not necessarily mean health-conscious. And for how long can you keep a pork pie in the fridge?

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