Hitting one of your co-workers at work is gross misconduct; an offense for which you can be summarily dismissed.
If it is true that Jeremy Clarkson hit a Top Gear producer, then the BBC have no option but to sack him. (Clarkson was, reputedly, on his final-final warning, though presumably the BBC were thinking more of something along the lines of a “joke” about sexual abuse at the BBC, such as Clarkson tweeted in May 2013, or some other racist or sexist jibe on the show, rather than a clear-cut case of gross misconduct.)
Two eyewitnesses are reported in the Mirror to have told journalists that Jeremy Clarkson’s bad temper was kicked off by his getting back to the hotel and discovering that as the kitchens were closed, he would get only only “soup and a cold meat platter” instead of the steak dinner he’d wanted.
An onlooker said the star, who had been drinking rosé wine, launched into an expletive-filled tirade using “every bad word you could think of” and ranted “so there’s no food” when he was told he would not get the steak he wanted.
The witness said: “We were surprised at his reaction because we were all thinking ‘surely soup is food’.”“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 [Oisin Tymon] 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.”
To be met with abuse for having failed to ensure the kitchens stayed open to provide Jeremy Clarkson with the exact meal he wanted, may be an accepted part of working for Top Gear. After all, people enjoy Clarkson’s hearty, forthright banter so much.
Paul Staines, who blogs as “Guido Fawkes”, started a petition to have the BBC ignore the alleged gross misconduct and reinstate Jeremy Clarkson: it currently has 676,063 signatures, and I doubt very much if every single one of the people who signed thought “Being punched by someone I work with? Yeah, that would be just fine.”
But that is what they are asking for: that anyone who works for Top Gear should accept that one of the less pleasant perks of the job is that if Jeremy Clarkson wants to abuse you – the eyewitnesses in the Mirror report describe it as “more of a scuffle”, suggesting that Clarkson, 6’5, was shoving the producer as well as shouting abuse at him – you just have to take it. [Another source says that Oisin Tymon was treated at Friarage Hospital in Northallerton after being punched in the face.]
Still, one of the known flaws of internet petitions is that many people don’t think through what they sign.
Of course, few of Clarkson’s supporters will ever have experienced violent humiliation at the hands of a workplace superior, though it remains to be seen if that is what happened here. I can only imagine that it is traumatic, embarrassing, and dehumanizing. There is perhaps no greater sign of a person’s character than how they treat people who work for them or provide them with services.
Also to be considered is that the BBC isn’t known – as Nick Cohen pointed out – for supporting anyone who points out the flaws in their cash cows. (None of the BBC staff directly involved in exposing Jimmy Saville as a serial rapist and abuser, have seen their careers flourish since: but the people who were actively involved in the intended cover-up, have been promoted and rewarded for doing so.) Perhaps this was the very first time that Jeremy Clarkson ever “scuffled” with a producer who didn’t provide him with the exact service he wanted, but it’s an odd thing about bullies: when they find out bullying works, they tend to escalate. If everything that has been reported was true, I would doubt if this was the first time Clarkson had done such a thing: I would guess rather this would be only the first time it happened in front of witnesses who didn’t work for the BBC.
With three-quarters of a million supporting Clarkson on Paul Staines’ petition, the BBC looking at having to pay foreign broadcasters millions if they don’t deliver the last three Top Gear episodes, and other TV companies delighted to offer Clarkson another opportunity – because who cares if he’s a bully? Not his many, many fans – I presume whoever at the BBC finally made the decision that this was gross misconduct that could not be ignored, is now shaking in their boots. Oisin Tymon is probably wondering how fast he’ll be blamed for being the target of Jeremy Clarkson’s wrath that cost the BBC all that money.
How many of those 736,686 petition-signers (yes, it’s gone up while I was writing this blogpost) really feel that it’s quite right that Clarkson should know he can be a bully and get away with it, so long as he only attacks those far beneath him? If they do feel it’s quite right that Clarkson should be allowed to bully his subordinates, are they bullies at their workplace, too?
I’ve seen someone excuse it as “hypoglycemia” – but it’s noticable that Clarkson is universally reported to have gone for someone who was subordinate to him, not a member of the hotel staff. If you have sufficient self-control to only punch down when you’re hypoglycemic, then you are hardly being overcome by unthinking rage, are you?
“I don’t know exactly what happened. He is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent.
“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.”
Perhaps David Cameron could follow through and offer Jeremy Clarkson a position at Number 10 as Director of Communications. Picking a personal friend with a dodgy record has never gone wrong for Cameron in the past, and it sounds as if Jeremy Clarkson is directly on-message, promoting the Tory party at its most typical.
Top Gear could continue as a show with a guest presenter, just has Have I Got News For You did after Angus Deayton was fired.