Clarkson: The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Prison…

by Steve Tombs, The Open University

… so ran the title of Jeffrey Reiman’s classic criminological text. The dialectic of the process of criminal ‘justice’ was never more aptly summarised – and continues to be evidenced on a daily basis.

Enter Jeremy Clarkson, a man who makes money out of being odious to the point where it is simply not worth bothering to repeat his long list of right-wing tirades – save to note that these can be followed via the columns of The Sunday Times and The Sun, those fine, upstanding examplars of law-abiding private capital that is News International.

But Clarkson’s latest bout of self-publicity does deserve some – brief – attention. Latest viewng figures show BBC’s One Showreaching almost 7 million, prime-time viewers. Being interviewed on the show on the day of the public sector strikes, 30thNovember, Clarkson responded to being asked of his views of the strike thus:

“I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?”

A minor storm followed. As did a comment from Prime Minister David Cameron:

“That’s obviously a silly thing to say and I’m sure he didn’t mean that. I didn’t see the remark but I’m sure it’s a silly thing to say.”

Clarkson apologised. He continues to draw his salary from our licence fee, reputed to be some £1.2m p.a., not to mention his other income from writing for the Murdoch Mafia, his ‘books’, DVDs, and so on. He is no doubt set to pick up a better pension than the ones public sector workers were trying to defend when he suggested they be executed – Unison estimates the average public service pension to be £7,800 a year.

Contrast this with the two men in their early twenties who used Facebook to urge ‘riots’ in Northwich and Warrington during the August disturbances. Both Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan pleaded guilty under sections 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act – in essence, intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence – though no disorder in fact ensued in either location.

Just read the charge. On the face of it, it looks equally applicable to Clarkson’s ‘joke’. Yet, unlike Clarkson, an apology was not the end of the matter for the two young men from Cheshire. In fact, they were both jailed for four years. Again not backwards in coming forwards with a comment, Cameron informed The Daily Mail of his rather contrasting views of this particular ‘encouraging’ of an ‘offence’:

“I think it’s right that we should allow the courts to make decisions about sentencing. They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it’s very good that courts are able to do that.”

Two mens’ lives blighted. One man’s Christmas DVD and book sales most likely boosted. And a schizophrenic Prime Minister, notably reticent about his own, youthful, Bullingdon-club high-jinks.

The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Prison. Indeed.

Editor’s link for those who missed the story:

Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘execute’ strikers joke sparks 21,000 complaints to BBC

Original article published on 02/12/11 by:

and reproduced here with kind permission from Colin Sumner.


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