Jeremy Clarkson as a working class hero? Not in my book

Jeremy Clarkson at AutoItalia Stanford Hall 20...

Jeremy Clarkson at AutoItalia Stanford Hall 2008. Cropped from original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I go on, don’t misunderstand me. I like Jeremy Clarkson a lot. I think he’s a great TV presenter. Even when he’s advocating murder on The One Show and it’s not really the done thing to like him I still do. Perhaps even moreso because it’s blatantly obvious that a man on national television has just successfully trolled the Daily Mail and its readership. This extends to Top Gear of course. The most watched motoring program in the world just wouldn’t be the same without a lanky balding man flinging a Ferrari round the track screaming, ‘POWER!’ every fifteen seconds and being accused of racism every time the show goes abroad.

A consequence of reading certain papers though, is that every now and again you’ll come across Clarkson’s writings. Usually bound together over the year and served as unimaginative stocking filler for dads and sons, his, ‘The world according to…’ series are funny, witty and clever. They do reveal more of the man that you get from sixty minutes on a Sunday evening however, and here’s where I start to lose the plot.

Clarkson is often held up as a working class hero. He’s one of us rather than them. He’s no Jeremy Paxman or David Cameron. He likes the things Joe Sixpack does; namely fast cars, beautiful women and spectacular works of engineering like Concorde. Ask anyone under the age of 25 who their ‘TV dad’ is and his name will occur with metronomic regularity. This is all well and good but he seems to hate just as many things that Sixpack holds close to his heart as well. Absent anything else nearby I took Clarkson’s first book into the toilet with me last week, perfect as his all are for short reading sessions, and it reminded me why I haven’t bought one in years. I don’t particularly like the man who writes them. I’ll never moan because he finds cricket boring and thinks Arsenal Rovers are a team in the Premierboat’s top tier, but why don’t others? He hates working class people too. He hates the North. He hates darts. He hates pubs. He hates PUBS!!!

And it’s not like he’s forgiven because he came from the ghetto and worked his way up. I used to live five minutes drive from Repton School where he was taught and the two words we used to describe people who attended it were, ‘rich’ and ‘posh’. Admittedly Clarkson was expelled from Repton which may give him some support amongst the current prison population, but Repton plays like a Midlands Eton so getting expelled from there isn’t quite the same as being chucked out of a South London Comprehensive.

His political viewpoints might get him some points. He loathed Tony Blair, despises Europe, thinks the UN is useless and every now and again he’ll make fun of (or simply throw champagne over) Piers Morgan. These are all fairly popular positions. But let’s be honest, flinging a flute of champagne over someone isn’t quite the same as giving them a Glasgow kiss, is it?

He’s arrogant with it as well. I don’t  mean the kind of comic arrogance seen every other hour on Dave either, but a class-based arrogance that assumes everyone who reads The Times wants to send their kids to private school, everyone with a grain of sense is conservative and ‘environmentalists’ (that’s people who believe in climate change to you and me) are off their trolley.

Or does he? Is this just his way of trolling working class liberals for his own amusement and continued press coverage? It’s a nice idea but I doubt it. Working in television has taught me that people who work in television tell lies to get attention, particularly people like me who don’t work in television. So whilst I’m not inclined to believe that Clarkson actually wished the shootings of people on the street, I am more critical of his writings because in my experience people more readily tell the truth in print, as odd as it may seem.

As a result having read much of his work, I’m stymied as to why Clarkson is accepted as this working class model though. Unlike Johnny Rotten who can’t go five minutes without reminding people of his background as if the ability to write music is somehow more impressive when your parents are poor, Clarkson seems content to be seen as he is. Cosy in the Cotswolds with the big house, electric gate, swimming pool and lightning jet in the front garden. It could be simply that most only watch him on Top Gear where he’s perfectly balanced by James ‘Captain Slow’ May and Richard ‘What’s the point’ Hammond. Or it could be that like Premierboat footballers, he’s forgiven because rich though he is, we forgive him because he’s doing something for a living that most of us would happily do in his place. Maybe it is because no one outside of the group of people who regularly complain about TV shows they don’t watch takes him seriously. Perchance it’s because we secretely share an affinity with a man who appreciates technology but whose only answer to it breaking is to hit it with a hammer.

In any case, it seems obvious that like rolling news and trips to London, Clarkson is something best enjoyed in small doses and over-saturation just leads to annoyance. Not a million miles away from going to the toilet then.


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