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Why have 700,000 people signed a petition to bring Clarkson back to the BBC?

Jeremy Clarkson has revealed “he has regrets” after an alleged “fracas” with a Top Gear producer, who after days of speculation has been named as 36-year-old Oisin Tymon. The BBC confirmed this week that Clarkson had been suspended following the incident amidst widespread allegations that he threw a punch at the producer.

With an investigation into the incident ongoing, the BBC has pulled Top Gear from its usual BBC2 Sunday night slot for the remainder of the current series, which still had three episodes left to air.

However Clarkson fans have shown that they don’t care whether he tried to attack Tymon or not. Within minutes of the official announcement from the BBC a petition campaigning for his return was set up by right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes.

“We the undersigned petition the BBC to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson. Freedom to fracas. BringBackClarkson,” it reads. So far over 700,000 people have signed the petition in support of the Top Gear presenter and #BringBackClarkson continues to trend on Twitter.

Apparently the row was over a steak dinner. Clarkson had been filming all day in North Yorkshire and on his late return to the Simonstone Hall Hotel, where the crew and presenters were being put up by the BBC, he was angry to discover that the chef had gone home. Possibly because he, too, had been working long hours (and not drinking rosé wine in a pub for three hours as reported by Channel 4). Unable to get his chops around the steak dish he fancied on the menu, Clarkson was offered soup or a cold platter as an alternative, which appears to have irked him further.

It’s alleged that he blamed Tymon for the lack of steak and that a “scuffle” ensued, the severity of which is still to be determined. One hotel worker told The Times: “I would describe his behaviour as a child’s tantrum rather than anything violent.”

Whether Clarkson deserves to be sacked by the BBC isn’t really the issue here, is it? It’s about a grown man acting like an infant because he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. And 700,000 people endorsing that.

Even the Prime Minister has put in his tuppence worth. David Cameron said: “‘He’s a huge talent. Because he is such a huge talent and he amuses and entertains so many people, including my children, who’d be heartbroken if Top Gear was taken off air, I hope this can be sorted out.” Thanks, PM, but perhaps stick to worrying about more pressing issues for the country, such as the state of the NHS and urban poverty.

A BBC disciplinary panel, chaired by head of BBC Scotland Ken MacQuarrie, is expected to summon Clarkson this week to explain exactly what happened at the Simonstone Hall Hotel. Tymon may also be required to give his account of the events.

Of course it’s not the first time Clarkson has landed in hot water over his behaviour. Here are just a few of the many, many times he’s had to take the rap for behaving inappropriately.

  • Last year he was forced to apologise after being captured on film allegedly using the N-word in the nursery rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”
  • The BBC’s Head of TV, Danny Cohen, tried to take disciplinary action against him, after he used the racist term “slope” to describe an Asian man on Top Gear‘s Burma special, but was overruled by the corporation’s Director General Tony Hall.
  • In 2012 Clarkson was found to have breached BBC guidelines by comparing a Japanese car to people with facial growths. He also once described a car as “special needs.”
  • During the Top Gear 2001 Christmas special in India Clarkson made jokes about pretty much every aspect of Indian culture, history and people. At one point he ridiculed the unhygienic conditions and lack of sanitation in the slums by driving around them in a Jaguar fitted with a toilet and boasting: “This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots.”
  • As far back as 1998, Clarkson offended Hyundai with “bigoted and racist” comments made at the Birmingham Motor Show and also called the people working on the BMW stand “Nazis.”
  • His appearance on The One Show in 2011 resulted in over 31,000 complaints after he said of public sector strikers: “I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”
  • Mental health charity Mind complained about him after he suggested in his column forThe Sun that trains should keep going after hitting people who jump in front of them (“Let foxy woxy and the birds nibble away at the smaller, gooey parts that are far away or hard to find”). He also asked Richard Hammond if he was “now a mental” after his serious crash.
Here’s a thought. If any one of us received complaints about our racist, bigoted, prejudiced behaviour in the workplace, and then decided to punch a colleague because we didn’t like what was on offer in the staff canteen, would we expect to hold onto our jobs?

(By the way, Clarkson did end up getting his steak dinner — the hotel’s general manager cooked it for him. Let’s hope his sirloin was worth it.) 

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