The war on Clarkson

People who do not follow British TV may be unaware of a "war" that has been going on in recent months between a popular British TV presenter and Britain's Green/Left. To introduce the TV program concerned:

"Top Gear is a long-running BBC television series about cars and motorsports. The programme completed its seventh series in December 2005 under its current format and is expected to return in Spring 2006. Top Gear is estimated to have over 350 million viewers worldwide, 5 million of which view the programme each week in the UK. [1] There is also Top Gear magazine, a publication produced by the BBC in conjunction with the TV show and sharing some common editors and features between them. Top Gear is currently hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May".

So what has Clarkson done? Here is how The Guardian sees it:

"It started as a small petition against Oxford Brookes University offering the BBC's Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson an honorary degree in recognition of his support of British technology and his contribution to learning and society. But it has turned into a mass outpouring of objection to the man who ridicules cyclists, loathes health and safety experts, despises environmentalists, annoys mountaineers, rages at Guardian readers and questions climate scientists.

According to the student organisers of a protest against the university plan, 1,400 people have objected online to "motormouth Clarkson" - many in the kind of language that he would recognise. "He is a moron who spouts ignorant and antisocial rubbish;" "he is a dangerous philistine who displays an alarming lack of intelligence; "his public persona promotes wilful ignorance," said some of the politer contributors yesterday.

In the past year the intemperate Clarkson, who also has columns in the Sun and Sunday Times, has described ramblers as "urban communists", cyclists as "Lycra Nazis", and people working for transport pressure group Transport 2000 as "ugly". Women, ethnic minorities and others have all taken offence. Recently car workers blamed him in part for the collapse of MG Rover.

His attitude to nature is also eccentric. He has questioned why Britain has so many hills, proposed that great white sharks should be eaten to extinction, been excited at the thought of Birmingham being covered by a glacier, rammed a car into a tree and driven up Ben Tongue, a Scottish mountain, in a 4x4.

Much of this is seen as good entertainment but his seemingly jocular views on global warming are ignorant and dangerous, say his critics. "What's wrong with global warming? We might lose Holland but there are other places to go on holiday," he wrote recently in the Sun. On Top Gear, he has lauded naturalist David Bellamy, who has disputed that man-made warming exists.

"Clarkson is dangerous. His views are disastrous. The message he sends across is that it's OK to have a couldn't care less attitude to the environment," said Steve Hounsham of Transport 2000. But the university was yesterday backing its man. In a statement it said: "We are giving Jeremy Clarkson an honorary degree in recognition of his enthusiasm and contribution to engineering and motor sports." The original citation talked of Clarkson's "contribution to learning and society and as an exemplary role model for students".

Clarkson was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a BBC spokesman said: "He has something to say about almost everything. Humour and lively debate are the hallmarks of Top Gear.""

So there are various ways the Left are trying to get at Clarkson. Here is one:

Jeremy Clarkson faces yet another brickbat from the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, Tom Brake. Not content with submitting an Early Day Motion against the Top Gear presenter, right, Brake is attempting to haul him before the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. Yesterday, he circulated a dossier on Clarkson's 'anti-green' track record to journalists, quoting his comment: 'What's wrong with global warming? We might lose Holland but there are other places to go on holiday.' Elsewhere, it highlights the chubby controversialist's belief that environmentalists should 'take up something useful, like tearing their tongues out', and his threat to 'run down' cyclists who cross his path. Brake should watch his step. Clarkson's last public enemy, Piers Morgan, ended up with a black eye.

And, finally, a comment from Clarkson himself:

"Environmentalists, it seems, can't argue like normal people. You may remember, for instance, back in the summer that a vegetarian girl, who I'd never met before, leapt from some bushes and plunged a huge banoffee pie right into the middle of my face. Then a Liberal Democrat MP called Tom Brake, who has the silliest teeth in politics, said he was going to table an early-day motion and drag me to London to watch him doing it. Now look. I don't want to see anyone's early day motion, least of all a Liberal Democrat's, which would be full of leaf mulch. And I especially don't want to see it on a table.

Why can't these people write me a letter saying, "I don't agree with you"? Why do they have to pie me and make me stand around watching a Liberal with mad teeth doing his number twos? It's beyond comprehension.

But last week the environmental protest about my way of life took an altogether more sinister turn when a Labour MP called Colin Challen made a speech in which he said he wanted me to be killed. No more pies. No more early days motions. Executed. Maybe he was joking, maybe he wasn't. Strangely, he's on record as saying he doesn't believe in capital punishment, so he doesn't want Peter Sutcliffe dead. He doesn't want Ian Huntley dead. And he thinks Gary Glitter should evade the firing squad. But he does want to see me swinging from the rafters in Wormwood Scrubs. He wants to see the faces of my distraught children on the television news and laugh at my wife as they cut me down and feed my limp, lifeless body to the prison pigs.

Now presumably before calling for my death he'd have done some research, in which case he'd have noted the way I use sheep to keep the grass down on my land rather than driving around in a lawnmower, which uses fuel and minces all the beasties that so amaze us in David Attenborough's new programme. What's more, a man who charges the taxpayer o64,000 a year to pay for staff would surely have had the human resources to find out that this year I grew some totally organic, fertiliser-free barley. It didn't go well. Come autumn I had six acres of what looked like soggy grey drinking straws, which I sold for exactly o325 less than it cost to buy the seed and rent a combine harvester.

But no matter. I didn't do this out of the goodness of my heart, and nor did I do it to save the world or the whale. I did it because barley attracts lots of interesting birds that I like to look at. Selfish, I know, but ecologically speaking I like to think I achieved a little bit more than Colin Challen, who stomps round the Yorkshire Dales in a hideous purple cagoule dreaming up new and interesting people he'd like to kill. So is he mad? Well, he can't be a complete window-licker because he managed to convince 20,570 people in the last election that he should be a member of the governing party. But then again, he does have a beard, he is called Colin, and he is a member of something called the Socialist Environment Resources Association.

This is the key. On the face of it SERA sounds like a fairly benign organisation - it raises sponsorship, for instance, for people to host low-carbon-transport dinners. Mmmm. They sound like fun. But nothing with the word socialist in its name can ever be truly benign. You may remember the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for example, where people were sentenced to death for arguing with the leadership. That's what Beardy is doing here. Like that fellow member of the face hair owner's club, Stalin, he wants me dead for disagreeing with him.

I love arguing. I love filling my dining room with social workers and foxhunters so everyone can roll up their sleeves and have a damn good row. That's because I believe in freedom of speech. Plainly the honourable member for Morley & Rothwell does not. And nor does Tom Brake from the Liberal Democrats, and nor does that girl with the big bum who pushed a pie in my face. In fact no one from the environmental bandwagon has even half an inkling about the concept of debate.

I do not believe that man is responsible for global warming. There are many eminent scientists who would agree. And I believe that western governments are in the process of spending billions of pounds trying to stem something over which we have no control. I believe that this money could be used to make the world a fairer, more peaceful place. I would much rather bring clean drinking water to an impoverished village in Sudan than bring a wind farm to the shores of Scotland. You might not agree, but surely you can see it is a reasonable argument.

Tom Brake can't. That bird with the pie can't. And certainly Colin Challen can't. Plainly he doesn't mind if all the Africans die of disease and hunger, because like all socialists, he wants to help the poor only about half as much as he wants to hurt the rich. I respect that argument. I respect the people of Leeds who listened to it and voted him into office. And I'd love to chat to him about it. But that's hard when you've got a face full of banana pie, you're faced with a pile of Mr Brake's veggie droppings and you're dead."

There is a criticism of the Green/Left attacks on Clarkson here

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