The Deployment Of Jeremy Clarkson, Self-Described European Citizen, Suggests A Remain Campaign In Disarray

What was David Cameron thinking, allowing himself to be pictured joking around with an arch euro-federalist days before the EU referendum?

I strongly suspect that David Cameron will come to regret trying to enlist Jeremy Clarkson and the remainder of the ex Top Gear rabble to support his tawdry and deceitful campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.

For while it made a great photo op, our dashing prime minister ladding about with old Clarkson, unfortunately Jeremy Clarkson then opened his mouth and spoke. And what he said was very far from the official Britain Stronger in Europe line of “oh gee, the EU is awfully frustrating, but we have to stick with it because we are just not good enough to handle this whole independence thing”.

No, as we saw earlier this year, Jeremy Clarkson is a committed EU federalist – and to his credit, he makes no effort to hide the fact that he feels European first and foremost, and that he wants the embryonic common European state to hurry up and finish hatching so that he can be a true European citizen.

And so, just when David Cameron needed Jezza to come out with a suitably “Eurosceptics for Remain” soundbite, Jeremy Clarkson instead gave us this (my emphasis in bold):

Really, it’s my gut. My gut tells me, as you know, I feel European, and therefore I want to be in Europe – for no other reason.

Because I’ve heard some very compelling reasons for leaving, sitting next to people who want to leave. And they are quite compelling.

And then Clarkson’s sidekick, James May, joins in the unwitting sabotage:

If I’m honest it’s a gut feeling for me as well. It’s because I feel that Britain is naturally disposed, if we’re not careful, to being rather backward in its view on the world. And there are too many people who think that we’ll be alright because we’ve got the E-type Jag. But that’s just not true, and being part of Europe is part of moving on.

In other words, instead of “I hate the EU too, but we are stuck with it because it’s the only thing on offer”, instead Clarkson and May gave us “Britain sucks and we’re all European citizens anyway! Let’s strive on to complete the grand project!”. Which rather undermines every single thing that the prime minister has been saying since he launched the Remain campaign – namely that the EU is a benign club devoted to trade, cooperation and nothing more, with no intentions to further impinge on our democracy, as well as the already-tenuous idea that voting Remain is in any way the patriotic thing to do.

It also rather contradicts the Remain campaign’s claim to have all of the facts on their side, while we knuckle-dragging Brexiteers exist in a kind of Trumpian, Palinite post-fact world. After all, Jeremy Clarkson’s argument for remaining in the EU doesn’t even remotely touch on the economic scaremongering which is so central to Stronger In’s messaging, which rather calls it into question. If the economic question is key and the “expert opinion” so settled that Brexit would be a disaster, why is the prime minister doing a photo op with someone who couldn’t give two figs about the economy because all he cares about is casting off his hated Britishness and becoming a truly European citizen?

Watch David Cameron’s pinched expression as Clarkson goes on about how European he feels, and then when May waxes lyrical about hopeless, parochial Britain with its backward inhabitants. You can see in the prime minister’s face the suppressed annoyance of a man who realises that his clever photo op has just massively backfired, and that the video footage they are capturing will be of absolutely zero use during the remainder of the campaign.

Why? Because unsurprisingly, the remaining undecided voters in this EU referendum campaign are not themselves ardent euro-federalists. Indeed, almost nobody falls into this peculiar category. And the last thing that the Remain campaign wants to be showing undecided voters – most likely people with no great love for the EU, but with gnawing fears about the economic risks of Brexit – is a self-satisfied millionaire celebrity who probably spends half the year sunning himself in the south of France and who sniffs at Britishness and considers himself European.

But still, one has to respect Jeremy Clarkson for at least being honest, as this blog pointed out when he first nailed his colours to the EU mast:

Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.

No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration.

Of course, this failed photo op took place before the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP changed the atmosphere of the referendum campaign. But it provides a snapshot of a Remain campaign not functioning as well as it should, and making bad tactical decisions – like wheeling out an ardent, unapologetic euro-federalist to try to reach a group of voters with significant doubts about the EU.

Whether or not the Remain campaign has used the past few days to steady the ship and reassert some sensible decision making will probably become clear on Monday, when both campaigns spin back up to full speed. But little vignettes such as this do paint a picture of a Remain campaign in disarray, if not outright panic – which can only be good for Brexiteers.

 

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Jeremy Clarkson: Refreshingly Frank Federalist Or Craven Castrato?

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One Jeremy Clarkson column, two very different reactions

To say that Breitbart’s James Delingpole disagrees with me about Jeremy Clarkson’s column calling for Britain’s dissolution into a federal European state would be putting it mildly.

While I praised Clarkson for being one of the only people in the whole sorry Remain campaign to honestly and openly admit their love for the European Union, Delingpole accuses him of “chopping off his own balls”:

There are lots of piss-poor columnists out there who you can easily imagine churning out this kind of bilge. But Clarkson really isn’t one of them. For a start, he has forged his entire career on tell-it-like-it-is-outspokenness and political incorrectness (especially where uppity foreigners are concerned). Also, he’s not stupid. The reason his collected columns tend to go to the top of the bestseller lists is partly because they’re funny but partly because they’re true. He has a gift for boiling down the political concerns of our time into a punchy but chatty style, replete with colourful images, witty asides and broad jokes which make them accessible to everyone.

Here, though, he’s not doing any of that. There is no way – in the unlikely event that he could ever bring himself to reread those words – that Clarkson will ever be able to look at that column and go: “Yup. I really nailed it, there.” Because he patently hasn’t. This isn’t just a fail. It is, by some margin, the worst Jeremy Clarkson column ever. Or at least the worst of the many I have read and (invariably) admired.

In fact what strikes me most is that here is the very exemplar of the kind of column you write when your heart just isn’t in it, when you’re making an argument you simply don’t believe in.

[..] I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at Clarkson in the same way again, however good his Top Gear replacement series is, because all I’ll be thinking is: “You had a choice, Jeremy. Either to go to the wall for the cause you believe in. Or to sell your soul to something you don’t believe in just because you live near the Prime Minister in the Cotswolds, share the same circle of posho friends and want to curry favour with the smart set.”

By contrast, I remarked:

But what is surprising (and actually rather impressive) is the full-throated way in which Clarkson embraces his support of the EU.

Unlike nearly every leading politician and personality in the Remain camp, Clarkson does not attempt to flatter us or pretend that he “gets” our concerns about Brussels gradually usurping our democracy. Unlike the deceitful-yet-ingratiating Sajid Javid, Clarkson makes no promises to go back to ranting at Brussels the moment he has helped doom us to continued membership of the EU (though in Clarkson’s case, more ranting is all but guaranteed).

Jeremy Clarkson actually does something which almost nobody in the intellectually squalid, fear-based Remain campaign dares to do – he owns his pro-Europeanism and wears it as a badge of honour, rather than doing what so many Turncoat Tories and others have done, prancing around like the World’s Biggest Eurosceptic before meekly running to David Cameron’s heel and supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU as soon as the prime minister snapped his fingers.

Delingpole is also adamant that Clarkson’s full-throated support of European federalism was part of an effort to ingratiate himself with the prime minister and his circle of friends, whereas I tend to be a bit more generous, believing simply that because they both came of age during a long period of British decline, Clarkson and David Cameron almost inevitably share the same defeatist, pessimistic view of Britain’s capabilities and prospects as an independent country:

Our prime minister and foreign secretary may hold our country, its history and present capabilities in astonishingly low esteem, but fortunately the same cannot be said for many of the people. Many of us correctly believe Britain to be one of the few truly indispensable nations on Earth, that our contributions to the arts, sciences, commerce and global security are almost unmatched, and that we could throw our weight around in the world accordingly, if only we cared to stand up for our own national interest once in awhile.

But such views are unheard of outside the Chipping Norton set, the middle class clerisy in general and the fawning circle of friends and admirers surrounding David Cameron (of whom Jeremy Clarkson is one). These people, many of whom came of age at the peak of 1970s declinism and economic doldrums, have at their core a deep pessimism and scepticism about the ability of Britain to survive and prosper as an independent actor on the world stage.

So deeply have they internalised this self-doubt and self-loathing that no matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary – the examples of Australia and New Zealand, say, somehow surviving in the world without being part of an Asia Pacific Union and sharing a common parliament and court – they bat it away without even stopping to think.

Regardless of his motivation, I still think that Jeremy Clarkson made a more honest case for Britain staying in the EU than nearly anyone else in the Remain camp, with their bogus scaremongering statistics and artfully disguised vested interests.

Whether that happens to be Clarkson’s own honestly expressed view, or if he was channelling the honest view of others (like our prime minister, who is too cowardly to talk frankly about his commitment to Brussels, or nearly any other subject), remains a dirty secret known only to Jezza himself.

And maybe Delingpole is right that the column reads as though Clarkson doesn’t have his heart in it. But still: what other high profile public figure has expressed their desire for Britain’s participation in a federal European state so strongly? The answer is none. Tumbleweeds.

And that alone makes Jeremy Clarkson’s column quite significant, if not personally brave.

 

British television presenter Clarkson returns to his home in west London

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At Least Jeremy Clarkson Is Honest About His Euro-Federalist Dreams

British television presenter Clarkson returns to his home in west London

Unlike most people in the Remain campaign, at least Jeremy Clarkson has the courage and decency to admit that he doesn’t just tolerate the European Union but actually dreams of Britain being part of a federal European country

So that great producer-punching pseudo Man of the People, Jeremy Clarkson, has come out definitively in support of Britain remaining in the European Union – and not just the EU as it is now, but the EU as it yearns to become in the near future, a fully politically integrated federal European state.

No great surprise there – Clarkson has made pro-European rumblings before. But what is surprising (and actually rather impressive) is the full-throated way in which Clarkson embraces his support of the EU.

Unlike nearly every leading politician and personality in the Remain camp, Clarkson does not attempt to flatter us or pretend that he “gets” our concerns about Brussels gradually usurping our democracy. Unlike the deceitful-yet-ingratiating Sajid Javid, Clarkson makes no promises to go back to ranting at Brussels the moment he has helped doom us to continued membership of the EU (though in Clarkson’s case, more ranting is all but guaranteed).

Jeremy Clarkson actually does something which almost nobody in the intellectually squalid, fear-based Remain campaign dares to do – he owns his pro-Europeanism and wears it as a badge of honour, rather than doing what so many Turncoat Tories and others have done, prancing around like the World’s Biggest Eurosceptic before meekly running to David Cameron’s heel and supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU as soon as the prime minister snapped his fingers.

Clarkson writes in the Sunday Times (+):

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to declare my hand. I’m with the man whose wife we fancy. I’m in.

When Mr Cameron was touring Europe recently, seeking a better deal for Britain by sucking up to the leaders of such places as Romania and Hungary, I watched on YouTube an MEP called Daniel Hannan make an anti-EU speech to a group of, I think, students. It was brilliant. One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. And, I’ll admit, it made me question my beliefs. But despite his clever, reasoned and passionate plea for us to leave Europe, I’m still in. He talked sense, but a lot of this debate is about how we feel.

In 1973 my parents held a Common Market party. They’d lived through the war, and for them it seemed a good idea to form closer ties with our endlessly troublesome neighbours. For me, however, it was a chance to make flags out of coloured felt and to eat exotic foods such as sausage and pasta. I felt very European that night, and I still do.

Whether I’m sitting in a railway concourse in Brussels or pottering down the canals of southwestern France or hurtling along a motorway in Croatia, I feel way more at home than I do when I’m trying to get something to eat in Dallas or Sacramento. I love Europe, and to me that’s important.

I’m the first to acknowledge that so far the EU hasn’t really worked. We still don’t have standardised electrical sockets, and every member state is still out for itself, not the common good. This is the sort of thing that causes many people to think, “Well, let’s just leave and look after ourselves in future.”

In other words, Jeremy Clarkson is your garden variety Euro-federalist. He looks at the bureaucratic opacity of Brussels, the contempt in which the EU is held by many of its citizens and the fact that cultural and regulatory harmonisation has not been completed to produce a single cultural identity where we all identify as Europeans first and use the same electrical outlets, and concludes that the correct answer is “more Europe”.

Fair play to him. He’s completely wrong, and betrays an almost criminal contempt for the democracy and right to self-determination for which our ancestors fought, bled and died. He is the archetypal person who votes as a consumer – because a harmonised, federal Europe would be better for his wallet and his weekend jaunts to France – rather than as a thinking, engaged citizen. But at least he has the god damn balls to honestly state his position. Hardly anybody in our own elected House of Commons supporting the Remain campaign would dare to do the same.

But then it begins to come off the rails (or the test track). Clarkson continues:

Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage. I think we are all agreed on that. But Europe, if it were well run and had cohesive, well thought-out policies, would be a tremendous force for good. I think we are all agreed on that as well. So how do we turn Europe from the shambles it is now into the beacon of civilisation that it could be in the future?

Oh really? We are “all agreed” on that, are we?

Actually, no we are not agreed at all. Our prime minister and foreign secretary may hold our country, its history and present capabilities in astonishingly low esteem, but fortunately the same cannot be said for many of the people. Many of us correctly believe Britain to be one of the few truly indispensable nations on Earth, that our contributions to the arts, sciences, commerce and global security are almost unmatched, and that we could throw our weight around in the world accordingly, if only we cared to stand up for our own national interest once in awhile.

But such views are unheard of outside the Chipping Norton set, the middle class clerisy in general and the fawning circle of friends and admirers surrounding David Cameron (of whom Jeremy Clarkson is one). These people, many of whom came of age at the peak of 1970s declinism and economic doldrums, have at their core a deep pessimism and scepticism about the ability of Britain to survive and prosper as an independent actor on the world stage.

So deeply have they internalised this self-doubt and self-loathing that no matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary – the examples of Australia and New Zealand, say, somehow surviving in the world without being part of an Asia Pacific Union and sharing a common parliament and court – they bat it away without even stopping to think.

Clarkson then sums up:

Right. So let’s switch our attention. Let’s leave the “parish councillors” alone and concentrate our big guns on the real decision makers in Brussels. Let’s have hacks outside their houses all day long, waiting for one of them to do or say something wrong. Let’s make them accountable. Let’s turn them from “faceless bureaucrats” into household names.

That is the biggest problem with the EU right now. Nobody is really concentrating on its leaders. Nobody is saying: “Hang on a minute . . .” And this means they are running amok.

It’s why we need to stay in. So our famously attentive media can try to stop them. To make them pause before they move. To make the Continent work the way the Continent should — as a liberal, kind, balanced fulcrum in a mad world that could soon have Trump on one side and Putin on the other.

And here we have the classic pivot back to “the answer is more Europe!” Rather than looking at public attitudes toward the European Union which range from disengaged indifference to blind, seething rage, Clarkson concludes not that the experiment in political integration by stealth has failed, but rather that we should just come to terms with it and re-order our media and culture around the EU’s artificial construct.

Clarkson is actually saying that if only more journalists doorstopped Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz every morning with awkward questions about budgets and foreign policy, we would immediately begin to feel more vested in the EU project and finally become enthusiastic Europeans. It’s pure wishful thinking, of course, but then so is everything about the EU, an political organisation build on the the principle of “If you build it, they will come” (they being a European demos willing to be led by Brussels).

But though Clarkson is wrong on nearly every point, cavalier with our democracy to the point that it does not even merit a mention in his article and unabashedly in hoc to the establishment’s ingrained europhilia, still he somehow comes away as the most intellectually honest and respectable of all the high profile Remain supporters.

Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.

No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration:

But, actually, isn’t it better to stay in and try to make the damn thing work properly? To create a United States of Europe that functions as well as the United States of America? With one army and one currency and one unifying set of values?

At last, an honest argument from a Remain supporter – someone who is brave enough to stand up and say “actually, I feel more European than British, I think that the nation state is kind of passé anyway, I’m envious of the size and power of the United States and terrified by the sight of Russia; therefore, we should proceed full speed ahead with the creation of a European country”.

Again: I find Jeremy Clarkson’s argument utterly repellent and contemptuous of our hard-won democracy and liberty. But my God, it’s refreshing to hear from someone from the Remain camp who actually says what they really feel about the European Union.

David Cameron, Philip Hammond, Theresa May and other assorted peddlers of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) – your turn next in the honesty corner.

 

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The N-Word

N word

 

One special word has been trending heavily in the British media over the past week, but you are unlikely to have seen it spelled out in print or on screen. Like the character Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, prevailing opinion and political correctness (albeit of the most well-intentioned kind) decree that it shall not be uttered, but only alluded to or heavily disguised for fear of the harm that it may do in its raw form.

Lord Voldemort burst back into the British news this time when popular television host, columnist and author Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear fame) had to plead for his job after being caught uttering the word while reciting a rhyme. Such was the frenzied speculation over whether Clarkson had indeed said the word that the Daily Mirror, in possession of the video clip, hired forensic audio experts to analyse the soundtrack in an attempt to decipher the contentious mumbled phrase. In the event, Clarkson apologised as he has never apologised before (rightly so), and lives to offend another day.

But as usually happens when making policy based on political correctness and overwhelming fear of public opprobrium rather than sound reason, the application tends to be panicked, sporadic and contradictory. So it was that after the A-list Jeremy Clarkson was let off the hook with a ‘final warning’ from the BBC and allowed to keep his position despite actually saying the word out loud with his own mouth, the decidedly C-list David Lowe, a provincial radio DJ, was peremptorily asked by the Corporation to resign for unwittingly playing a song containing the same word.

(BBC policy apparently decrees that as you move up the fame hierarchy you can earn the right to skate closer to explicitly saying the word in public without being fired. If the BBC’s top ten stars banded together and offered up their annual vacation allowance and overtime, presumably they could sing the word in the style of a four-part Bach fugue at the start of the Nine O’Clock News.)

What is more concerning than a BBC television star’s casual utterance of the word or the network’s inconsistent treatment of those who fall foul of the complex web of unwritten rules that govern its use, though, is the craven way that the media, almost without exception, voluntarily choose to censor themselves when reporting these stories. Somewhere along the way it was decided that not only is it wrong to say the word in anger (quite rightly – no decent person should), neither is it okay to write or speak the word in the course of a dispassionate news broadcast. And so news consumers are patronised with that childish and awkward compromise, the N-word.

Make no mistake: the word-that-shall-not-be-named is a hateful thing. It brings forth horrible echoes of enslavement, beatings, lynchings and repression, the worst that humanity can do to its own kind. And within some people’s living memory it evokes painful recollections of segregation, discrimination, bullying, voter disenfranchisement and domestic terrorism. But driving the word out of the public discourse completely cannot undo any of these wrongs – the main effect is only to spare us from having to face up to the brutal connotations that come along with it. We may claim to disguise the word for fear of causing offence, but it is just as much an evasion to spare ourselves from feeling discomfort.

The comedian and great observer of human nature, Louis CK, captures this evasion-disguised-as-concern perfectly in his stand-up HBO special comedy routine, “Chewed Up”:

Everybody has different words that offend them, different things that they hear that they get offended by… To me, the thing that offends me the most, is every time that I hear “the N-word.” Not “nigger” by the way. I mean “the N-word.” Literally, whenever a white lady on CNN with nice hair says, “The N-word,” that’s just white people getting away with saying “nigger,” that’s all that is. They found a way to say “nigger.” “N-word!” It’s bullshit ’cause when you say “the N-word” you put the word “nigger” in the listener’s head. That’s what saying a word is. You say “the N-word” and I go “Oh, she means ‘nigger’.” You’re making me say it in my head! Why don’t you fuckin’ say it instead and take responsibility, with the shitty words you wanna say.

CK is right inasmuch as that journalists are not really letting themselves off the hook by referring to the ‘N-word’ rather than its expanded form. Since journalists are effectively planting the word in peoples heads when they refer to the ‘N Word’ in a story, all that refusing to spell or speak the word out in full does is imbue that specific arrangement of letters with some nonexistent, mythical power that must be feared and respected.

The media’s unwritten policy would be slightly more understandable if it applied equally to other racially derogatory terms, but this is not the case. When three football supporters were charged with racial aggravation for chanting the word “yid” at two football matches, the BBC reported on the story and included the word “yid” in the headline. And several years ago BBC Four broadcast a documentary entitled “Kike Like Me”, in which the film maker “goes on a personal journey to find out what it means to be Jewish in the modern world”. But no matter how clinical or non-aggressive the context may be, the word occupies an exalted place among the racial slurs requiring it alone to be diluted before publication.

Yes, the word ‘nigger’ is about as deeply unpleasant a word as can be said. Used as a derogatory term, it has an abiding power to hurt – your blogger speaks from occasional painful experience on the receiving end. But because the word is so hateful, let those in the business of reporting the news show the word’s use in anger to be the outrageous and insensitive thing that it is – by repeating it, straight-faced and in all of it’s ugliness, not by sugar-coating it in the form of a child’s euphemism.

If, in the year 2014, someone in a position of prominence still decides to use the word ‘nigger’ in a derogatory or throwaway manner, we shouldn’t report it euphemistically as though we were embarrassed children tattling about a schoolyard transgression or other act of naughtiness to a teacher – “he said the F-word, she said the C-word!” – we should report it with the honest and brutal simplicity that the facts dictate.

This isn’t school. We are all grown-ups here. So let’s reflect that in our journalism, and put the N-word to bed.