Clarksongate: The voice of reason or the unreasonable?
Not since Sachsgate has the BBC had to face an onslaught of complaints and outrage aimed at one of its leading 'edgy' stars. But was his crass comment that strikers should be 'executed...in front of their families' a sentiment that others in the UK might just agree with? Was Clarkson again using a verbal Howitzer to fire out a frustration that those who remained in work (and not shopping) on Wednesday really feel?Unison's immediate declaration that he should be sacked probably made a few senior managers in both the public and private sector smile. Kettle, pot, black – irony seems to have no boundaries these days. Reading comments left on the BBC News website and various forums (including AOL Money) since the strike took place, the country is definitely split down the middle on whether the strike was necessary and what problems it highlighted.
People do have the right to strike but how many people actually voted for this strike? Public sector workers who didn't vote to take action were decrying its timing. One comment on the BBC said: "Why strike now? Wait until the negotiations have broken down and then strike." Both David Cameron and Francis Maude went on the PR offensive to denounce the day a "damp squib" in a bid to strengthen their hand in the union negotiations – and it may have worked.
Nostalgic references to Margaret Thatcher's approach to public sector crises and smashing union power have filled column inches this week. It also helps that this strike comes just as Meryl Streep is promoting her new biopic of the Iron Lady.
Memories of the 1984 Miners Strike still resonate but that year of turmoil was a fight for community and for a dying industry. Was this strike equivalent in its gravitas? Many would say no.
As The Guardian's political editor Michael White said in a blog today: "Serious agitators such as Arthur Scargill really thought they might overthrow capitalism. Instead it overthrew him."
And this present fight against capitalism and the bankers (with Occupy LSX and other tent dwellers) is probably why so many shunned the strike and would rather cut off their hands than 'Hoot your support'. The carnival atmosphere of the march is what is so different from the Thatcher years. That was a period of rage. After 12 years of Labour (where union relations were cosy and docile) and now 18 months of Coalition government, the public doesn't know how or want to protest.
Anyone who has been made redundant in recent months will look at those striking with the attitude: "Well at least you have a job and a pension to look forward to". The return of Yosser Hughes and his friends from the Black Stuff is imminent.
Watching the clip on The One Show again, it was an obvious joke from the ever inappropriate Clarkson which backfired as spectacularly as an F1 Lotus. But the fundamental issue of the 'gilt-edged' public sector pensions versus the paucity of decent private sector pensions, still remains.