We know why Clarkson is feted by so many, but what I'm more interested in are the displays of solidarity from his establishment friends. Expense-fiddling Maria Miller blames the BBC for not dealing with "its larger than life characters" properly, as if somehow it is responsible for Clarkson's punching out a member of staff. "How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following" tweeted Rupert Murdoch; "The BBC is like a distant planet. Alien and out of touch” scrawled Katie Hopkins in her Sun column last week, and Dave: "I hope this can be sorted out because it [Top Gear] is a great programme and he is a great talent." By far the most egregious example comes from our good friend Louise Mensch, professional ex-MP, gobshite, and cheerleader for all that is rancid. Here's a petard. Go hoist yourself with it, Lou:
@LouiseMensch Serious? You think it's okay to hit someone, at work or anywhere else? Wimps if we say violence is unacceptable? Peace & love
— Laura Marcus (@MissLauraMarcus) March 25, 2015
@LouiseMensch Blimey... so if you and I ever meet and your inane remarks piss me off so much that I lamp you one, that's okay is it?
— Laura Marcus (@MissLauraMarcus) March 25, 2015
What a risible spectacle. Is there a better demonstration of how deeply the view that laws and everyday common decency doesn't apply to them runs among the entitled, hypocritical, and monied imbeciles clustering like coprophilic flies around Clarkson's person?
Why though? Is it because the conservative establishment, whose raison d'etre is continued political dominance, are simply falling over themselves to help out a mate? Yes. And no. Clarkson's establishment creds are very well-established, and nothing extra needs adding to that. There is something else that has left them deeply anxious, and it's this: they're losing. Conservatism as it stands now is time-limited and on its way out. Even if by an awful miracle they pull off a general election win, the decline will continue unabated. Dave's calling time on his premiership presumptuously, the EU referendum, UKIP, and jockeying for life after Dave will ensure that a moderate, centre right makeover some are pleading for is not happening any time soon.
As their movement is in slow-mo collapse, so their cultural bastions are crumbling. Sure, in many ways the neoliberal charge Thatcher led in the 1980s is deeply embedded in the social fabric. Her attempt, shamefully aided and abetted in the Blair years, to encourage a cost/benefit homo economicus as everyone's default mental apparatus, is still with us. It took a generation to bed down, and will probably take just as long to root out. Their moment of triumph is also the occasion of their historical defeat. It has become dislocated from the Conservative project. In successfully encouraging Britain's wage and salary slaves to look to anything but collective organisation based on class for salvation, increasingly large numbers merely treat work as a means to an end, an inconvenience to be got over with as quickly as possible so one can live. As the crisis posed capital by an unruly labour movement is resolved, so another starts to open around the legitimation of work itself. Hence why 1970's-style radical workplace economism has comparatively little purchase, but likewise why the Tories and so-called Tory values have a hard time cutting through - particularly with younger cohorts.
Traditional family values, no. The mapping of Britishness onto whiteness, no. Overt stupidity and bigotry, no. Mean-spiritedness, increasingly not. The union itself, increasingly shaky. If we wish to flatter it, it's telling that conservative intellectual firepower is all concentrated in the declining Tory press whose readership tends to be middle-aged-to-elderly. Apart from occasional stabs at tabloid telly, usually to rile up antipathy toward a powerless minority or those in receipt of benefits, our heavily mediatised cultural landscape is almost a no-go zone for conservative figures. Clarkson stands out because he is part of a dying breed. There are few, if any, that command the genuinely wide following he does, and this is why the conservative establishment are squealing like a pig recently parted with its knackers. Their cultural standard bearers are dropping off the TV schedules and commanding zero following out there. When celebrities do come out as Tory supporters, like Gary Barlow did, they're pilloried. Alternatively, there's nothing at all wrong with burnishing one's lefty, social justice creds a la Paloma Faith. The cling to Clarkson because, increasingly, he's the only "non-political" figure they've got putting across their tedious, small-minded commonsense. They instinctively feel their Gramsci even if the left does not.
I'm sure Clarkson will wash up with his hangers on elsewhere. He is bankable, after all. Nevertheless, to be edged out of what probably remains the most trusted and well-respected broadcasting institution in the world is a significant devaluation of whatever collective cultural capital the conservative side of things have left.