Punch ‘n’ Jeremy: maverick joker or establishment stooge?

Jeremy Clarkson is no politician, but he certainly acts like one. His media exposure allows him to campaign vociferously and eloquently, like a Daily Mail-endorsed middle finger stuck up at the Left, the Environment, and anything containing the words “health” and “safety”. And with over 1,000,000 signatories to the petition to reinstate him at the BBC, he has more followers than the combined membership of all UK political parties.

It would be forgivable to dismiss such popularity as a manifestation of celebrity culture and the escapism of Top Gear. Clarkson does not of course have a real political platform, and many of his engagements with current affairs are outrageous bordering on satirical. For instance, it’s difficult to imagine a man with such excellent historical knowledge unintentionally using the registration H984 FKL in the Falklands. He even made this comment, while interviewing Alistair Campbell:

“I don’t believe what I write, any more than you believe what you say”.

No, Clarkson doesn’t expect to be taken seriously at all. But, as evidenced by the death threats sent to Oisin Tymon this week, a vocal minority clearly do just that. What, then, would a Clarksonian Manifesto look like from the outside? Let’s look at what he’d say about the results of YouGov’s poll of our top political priorities:

Immigration – it’s been hard to open a newspaper without seeing him insulting immigrants (and ethnic groups) recently. From joking about the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay, to remarking on the “fecklessness and flatulence” of the Mexican people, it’s clear that Mr Clarkson isn’t Johnny Foreigner’s best friend.

The Economy – whilst having an ambivalent attitude to the EU, his vitriol is distinctly anti-Labour (he claims they raised taxes to 98% in the ‘60s). He’s ultimately a huge supporter of the automotive industry, and once blurted out on the One Show that striking public sector workers should be dragged outside and shot in front of their families.

“No, Clarkson doesn’t expect to be taken seriously at all. But, as evidenced by the death threats sent to Oisin Tymon this week, a vocal minority clearly do just that.”

Again, these statements are roundly defended as being tongue-in-cheek. When summarised though, the boorishness and ostentatious far-right politics read more like a UKIP gaffe than a fun weekly column.

And that’s really the point – from a distance, or if you don’t “get the joke”, Clarkson’s views are a plain normalisation of old fashioned racism and elitism. These views are having a real effect too – thousands rallied round the flag to defend him against allegations he used the N word; and any hack with the temerity to suggest that the great man’s ego should be reined in is summarily court-martialled by the anti-PC brigade. There’s even been a long term Facebook campaign to overthrow the government, and install him as benevolent dictator/PM.

Clarkson’s not just a comedian; with his vast popular support and ability to influence the daily news, he might be edging people closer and closer to the jaws of UKIP – intentionally or not. His penchant for “punching down” at the lower strata of society has given him a public image as a maverick, and a strong reputation for sticking up for what “Britain” wants. However, the fact is that his views are very closely aligned with the traditional Establishment. And on that bombshell…

William Flesher

Image by PA via


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