In defence of Jeremy Clarkson. Yes, really.

Jeremy Clarkson is an attention-seeking controversialist. That’s his stock in trade. He’s about as close as the British have come to embracing America’s shock-jock cult.

And he was at it again yesterday — seeking attention, being controversial — when he appeared on BBC1’s The One Show and suggested striking public sector workers should be shot in front of their families. Cue VT:


(Also available on YouTube here.)

I guess that we all accept he wasn’t being literal, that even Jeremy-bloody-Clarkson doesn’t actually believe every single one of the hundreds of thousands who yesterday exercised their democratic right of collective action should be massacred.

In other words, this was typical Clarkson: the only thing he was shooting off was his mouth.

Yet people were outraged. OUTRAGED, I tell you. How do I know? Because they took to Twitter to voice their OUTRAGE. With ‘Jeremy Clarkson’ trending worldwide on Twitter, they sought redress with the hashtag #sackclarkson. How the attention-seeking controversialist must have hated being the focus of their OUTRAGE.

I have just one question for those who leap upon the OUTRAGE bandwagon: could you be any more Daily Mail? Because that’s all this slacktivist agitprop is: a synthetic, lazy, über-hyped way of whipping-up fervour about stuff that should just wash off us.

If you really, really want to cause Jeremy Clarkson some pain, here’s my suggestion… Ignore. Him. Completely. He’ll hate it, I promise you.

And use the energy and OUTRAGE you’ve saved by choosing not to be offended by a millionaire saloon-bar bore for issues that actually matter a damn.

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73 Comments

  • David Edwards 1st Dec '11 - 7:59am

    will continue my ignorance especially of someone who was just there to plug his Christmas DVD

  • The thing that annoyed me was his unchallenged bashing of public sector workers
    as pointless wastes of money when Clarkson himself gets a substantial wedge (about £1m) from pulling this schtick on a publicly funded broadcaster. There was no attempt to challenge his statements, just a cosy humouring of his views on prime time BBC.

    Also, I see no problem in Twitterers deploying Daily Mail tactics against one of their ilk. I don’t see why left-leaning people have to quietly accept the character assassination the Mail and others dish out against those that don’t fit their narrow, right-wing view.

  • @Simon I’m fully aware of that, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s employed by a publicly funded service. Since it’s the format that’s sold, not Clarkson, clearly his presence is optional.

  • I don’t watch it but I can appreciate that Top Gear works as a programme not only because of its format but because of the interplay and combination of personalities. Love or hate him, Clarkson is central to it.

    Does anyone seriously think he in any way influences public opinion?

    I manage to ignore him quite successfully.

  • I’d like to see some Liberal Democrats publicly stand up for unions and public sector workers.

  • @Stephen Tall: BTW, this piece isn’t a defence of Jeremy Clarkson.

  • Jeremy Clatkeson is a public sector tax funded worker, He works for atate imposed entertainment channel, I think he should be payed about as much as a dinner lady and ease into retirement on a generous pension of £4000 ayear at the age of 67 to show his support for the coali;tions plans for other public sector workers, along with Paxman and the rest.

  • I am sure that Clarkson is only expressing what some of your Tory friends say in private. In my view, people who incite violence towards others on television against any section of our population should be prosecuted and I’m sure he would have been if he’d said the same thing about homosexuals, Muslims, Jews or even bankers. But we must expect much more of this now that the Liberal Democrats and their Tory friends have declared war on those who work in public services and the working class in general.

  • You know people are giving Clarkson and his calculated PR stunt too much attention when the most balanced report comes from the ‘Daily Mash’ http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/outrage-over-reaction-to-clarkson-reaction-reactions-201112014617/

  • Maybe the fact that Lib Dems don’t find a problem with this is more a reflection of your growing tendency to morph into your nasty party partners. Can’t imagine the LDs of 5 years ago would have responded so casually.

  • Er… a warning on the Daily Mash… not for the delicate or for work

  • Perhaps you did. I agree with you in the sense that people like Clarkson are there to be controversial. Where I disagree with you is that this is some kind of ‘faux outrage’. For me personally there is nothing faux about it. Sure I understand he wasn’t being literal but nevertheless millionaires denigrating public servants is not something that sits easily with me. I’m already fed up with millionaires like Cameron and Osbourne doing the same. As a public sector worker worried not just about my future but also about the way my profession is so casually undermined is something i am outraged by and I used to rely on the Lib Dems to share that. I can handle people disgreeing about strike action and policies but laughing along with millionaires so casually dismissing hard working, hardly affluent anxious people doing good things for society is not a very funny joke.

    And I’ve never brought the Daily Mail in my life.

  • Muxloe, the point about Jeremy Clarkson is that he’s a professional tw*t. He and his agent will be rubbing their hands with glee about all the press attention he’s getting, no doubt measuring the column inches in readiness for his next contract negotiation. The best way to get Clarkson and his ilk off the screens is not to give them the publicity they crave.

    If the outpourings of outrage on Twitter and elsewhere were instead directed towards the politicans who can influence what’s happening, it would be worthwhile. As it is, Jeremy Clarkson has no more impact on public sector pension negotiations than does Simon Cowell or any other celebrity boor.

    Yes, he poisons the debate, but only because people rise to the bait.

  • You don’t have to have a TV licence though do you? It’s a choice.

  • Nick (notClegg) 1st Dec '11 - 11:55am

    What I find really offensive is the final phrase:
    “while the rest of us have to work for a living” as if, in contrast to public service workers, he is actually doing something useful.
    The man is an idiot and his views should be treated with the contempt that they deserve.

  • There’s a delicious irony that the author of this piece has failed to follow his own advice to ignore Clarkson, and in so doing now generated a greater number of responses than for much more serious issues.

  • David Pollard 1st Dec '11 - 12:01pm

    Free speech and all that. There is a limit, but Clarkson is obviously joking and its the sort of thing that’s said regularly on have I go news for you and mock the week.

  • @Shoon
    Thats a very simplistic point. I’m hardly going to not pay the license fee due to my dislike of one person. How about saying to gay people, well if you don’t like homophobic chanting at football matches then don’t buy a ticket….

    @Ann
    yes. I am aware that Clarkson is a professional tw*t and fully agree with you. My own anger is two fold
    1. On a day that was bound to divide people as yesterday’s strike action was bound to do did the BBC really think getting comment from Jeremy Clarkson was going to be useful or wise. The efforts of many in the government and media to play off public v. private sector is something I find very upsetting. Fanning the flames but asking rent a gobs for quotes is not particularly wise at a time like this.
    2. Sure I’m able to take what Jermey Clarkson says with a pinch of salt but as you point out there are people who rise to the bait. I work in a South London school; its tough enough as it is without there needing to be jokes about violence towards public sector workers and how its the rest of “us” have to work for a living. Must people are intelligent enough not to take it literally however a tiny minority aren’t and encouraging the casual dismissal of people doing difficult jobs for society’s benefit isn’t a culture I personally see as being very welcome.

  • Online ‘slacktivisim’ can be so much froth. However I don’t want to pay his wages anymore, so I rang the BBC complaints phoneline on 03700 100 222. Open 24 hours.

  • David Allen 1st Dec '11 - 12:47pm

    It’s a pity that LDV doesn’t seem keen to debate this strike, except via the back-door means of a critical review of the analysis carried out by Clarkson, J.

    It’s particularly a pity when we see the two old class parties cynically using it to corral their class voters – with the Tories endlessly telling private sector workers that they are the wealth creators, while Labour endlessly tell public sector workers that they are the salt of the earth.

    Meanwhile, an independent centrist party if we had one might be able to come up with policies which were more sensible, balanced and helpful. Such as, that yes the public sector should now do more to take their share of the pain; but, that on the other hand, public sector pensions provision should not try to race the private sector to the bottom. Rather, private sector provision should become more like the public sector.

    Where are the independent centrist Lib Dems when we need them?

  • mike cobley 1st Dec '11 - 1:13pm

    Clarkson didnt say give them a kicking, or slap them in the face with a wet fish, or take a foam pie and squidge it into their faces. No – he said take them out and execute them in front of their families.

    We are aware, arent we, that …there are countries in the world where authoritarian government take trade unionists and other dissenters off to the side and kill them, or torture their families in front of them before killing them. Mebbe we should put Clarkson in front of an audience of Chileans or Argentinians or citizens of some loathsome dictatorship in Africa or Asia, let him blab his vicious bile and see how many laughs he gets then.

    As a habitual utterer of despicable, bigotted guff, he should not be let off with a giggle and a shake of the head (as happened on Sky news this morning).

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '11 - 1:22pm

    OK, so how come much milder remarks I’ve made in message to this forum don’t get through because they are deemed “offensive”? It may have been “just a joke”, but I think calling for people to be “executed in front of their families” is an extremely nasty piece of sadism, and not just “ha ha, how funny”. I may be very angry about the way certain people working in the City are taking huge sums of money, but if I were to let my anger run into calling for them to be “executed in front of their families” I think it would be right to say that I had gone much too far and that I ought to apologise for it.

  • Mike Barnes 1st Dec '11 - 1:23pm

    Clarkson, the man who implied all lorry drivers were serial killers? Yeah nobody takes him seriously. But I cannot believe Unison are actually fuelling his publicity seeking DVD promoting chat-show tour by seeking legal advice.

  • David Allen – this isn’t about public sector pension provision “racing to the bottom”, it’s about the choices that face everyone in pension provision.

    Let us, for a minute, look at the figures provided by the IFS. Presently there are 4 workers for every pensioner; in 2056 there will be 2 at current retirement ages.

    Pensions are a transfer of wealth from current workers to pensioners, either directly in the form of taxation or indirectly in the form of the value of the companies/funds that pay out annuities.

    Even if everyone in the country had the same wages, you can see that through the process of extended longevity there will be far more pensioners to be supported by each worker were nothing to change.

    Consequently, people have to retire later, pay out more in contirbutions, or accept less in retirement. Or a combination of all three.

    Yet none of the Union leaders interviewed and none of the strikers seems to recognise that basic fact.

    We cannot go on as we are.

  • The idea that to pay for pensions we ALL must retire far later in life doesn’t make sense. There are only a finite, and shrinking, number of jobs and working 3, 4, 5 extra years means that youth unemployment will continue to increase.
    In addition, a manual worker of 65, let alone 68, will be far less able than a 20yr old.

  • Simon Bamonte 1st Dec '11 - 4:07pm

    @mike cobley: Good post. The Tories’ eternal hero, Thatcher, was a strong supporter of the killings and reign of terror that was General Pinochet. I am sure there are many Tories who still secretly feel the same and would love to use his methods here in the UK. After all, Cameron is “good friends” with Clarkson. But then, he’s also “good friends” with Andy Coulson and Rebeccah Brooks. One has to wonder about our PM based on the company he keeps.

    As for Clarkson, I think he should be sacked. Or, even worse, be forced to work for a week as a hospital porter, for example, on the minimum wage like so many others, and see just how hard-working and valuable many public sector workers are. The hospital porter and Clarkson are both public servants…and I know which one is far more useful and vital to our country.

  • Simon Bamonte 1st Dec '11 - 4:20pm

    @Dan Dan Falchikov “Just shows the trotskyite left have no sense of humour.”

    My wife is a hard-working public sector worker who went on strike yesterday. She is hardly a member of the “Trotskyite left”, but was appalled by Clarkson advocating she be shot in front of me and our child.

    Is that was this country is coming to? Strikers being branded Trots and the BBC giving a platform to a man who wants my wife murdered? I expect this from the Tories but to see fellow Lib Dems brushing this off is perhaps another sign that this party is turning into something I can no longer support.

  • @ Tabman

    You are wrong. Public Sector pensions are not unaffordable. Forcing workers to pay hundreds and hundreds of pounds more for their pensions is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The right will use any excuse and lie if necessary to destroy our public services and our welfare state. The Hutton Report shows that public sector pension payments peaked at 1.9 per cent of GDP in 2010-11 and will fall over the next fifty years to 1.4 per cent in 2059-60.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/public-sector-strike

  • Matthew Huntbach has it right in my view – it may have been meant in jest but it clearly crosses the line.

    I think calling for his immediate sacking is too much as an initial response but I am becoming more sympathetic to the call seeing he is not prepared to apologise. No matter what your political views and opinion of Clarkson it was a particularly crass and unpleasant thing to say on a family tv show. If he had said it on a late night, adult-orientated satirical show then the response would have been different. The context is important in therse judgements

    I don’t think the word ‘f***’ is particularly offensive (I tend to use it quite a lot) but if someone said it on a prime time tv show I am sure it would be considered inappropriate and there would be calls for an apology.

    It seems that Ross and Brand got a little less sympathy for their equally unpleasant actions. I believe they had to apologise and were effectively sacked for what they did – why should Clarkson not even apologise?

    In my view a genuine apology should be expected and should suffice – if he is too arrogant to offer one then his employers (on whose show the comments were made) should tell him to make one and possibly start disciplinary action. In my (private) sector company anyone making such comments in an inappropriate environment would be expected to apologise and probably receive a written warning

  • Dan Falchikov……. Posted 1st December 2011 at 4:02 pm
    In a contest between Unison and Jeremy Clarkson – I’m afraid there will only be one winner – and it’s not Unison.
    Just shows the trotskyite left have no sense of humour

    What sort of contest? Caring, teaching, nursing, etc.?

    Was I offended? No, nothing Clarkson says should be taken seriously…..

  • macK – no, i’m not wrong. All that graph shows is a very flakey prediction of public secotr pensions as a percentage of GDP. Furthermore, you can’t expect an article in the New Socialist to be unbiased, can you.

    My basic facts are correct. If people live longer, the pension age has to rise, contributions have to rise, and/or pension payments have to fall. That is simple economics and may I refer you to the (independent) IFS study that says exactly that:
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/economic_review/fp241.pdf
    “The future course of pensions policy in the UK remains to be seen, but doing nothing is not an option. As this article has shown, there are only three ways to support an ageing population: consume less during working life (save more or tax more), consume less during retirement, or work for longer. If we make no active choices about which margins to adjust, a choice will be made for us, and it may well be a choice we do not like.”

  • Nick (notClegg) 1st Dec '11 - 7:33pm

    Clarkson has now said that his comments “were not intended to be taken seriously”.

    Wow, what a surpise!

    Does any sensible person take anything that Clarkson says seriously?

    But why, oh why, was his nonsense given an airing on this blog?

  • Andrew Suffield 1st Dec '11 - 8:28pm

    Does any sensible person take anything that Clarkson says seriously?

    No. And those people screaming their OUTRAGE? They are doing it for the same reason Clarkson said it: to get media attention. Not one of these people is sincere.

    The only difference between Clarkson and all the others is that Clarkson’s professionalism as a loud-mouthed jerk brings a massive amount of foreign consumer spending into the UK and pays for a large chunk of the BBC’s good work.

    (He isn’t going to be sacked for doing the one thing that he gets paid to do)

  • Andrew Suffield

    Well his comment was pretty crass for an early evening show – perhaps not for a late night adult show but context is everything.

    I do not get outraged easily and am not outraged by this particularly.

    What I am though is disappointed with his half-arsed apology and the approach of those who say that a) this is just how he is and b) he brings in lots of money for the bbc. Both points may have elements of truth but that is not a real excuse. I am also not convinced that all people do not take him seriously. His populist rantings (similar to Littlejohn) do have a following and so using this as an excuse for not doing anything is it! Where I work anyone making an inappropriate comment (note the word inappropriate) like that would be hauled over the coals.

    What ts shows what a div this man is.

  • Kevin Colwill 1st Dec '11 - 11:31pm

    If God was fair and just and right,
    He’d send a thunderbolt to smite,
    Clarkson and his acolytes!
    Sung in blue jeans,
    Smug in thought,
    A new opinion never sought,
    But the format has been bought,
    at great expense.
    And so the jewel sits in the crown,
    The pointless wheels keep going round,
    And make another million pound,
    perhaps I am dense.
    So dense it’s I who cannot see,
    That petrol soaked banality,
    Is all that’s needed after tea,
    on Sunday nights.
    So here the modern Summer Wine,
    No second childhood screened this time,
    Just aged adolescent whine,
    and jeans too tight.
    If God was fair and just and right,
    He’d send a thunderbolt to smite,
    Clarkson and his acolytes!

    Kevin Colwill

  • Stephen Donnelly 1st Dec '11 - 11:44pm

    Clarkson’s comments were silly, but we need to distinguish between our personal reaction to his comment and what we think should be done about them. The danger here is that, like the John Terry case, the law starts to become involved where it ought not to be.

  • By letting him offend you, you’ve done EXACTLY what he wanted, which is to turn the debate away from the merits or otherwise of the strike and onto the merits or otherwise of brand Clarkson. Kerching, job done, go straight to the Christmas DVDs Top 10.

  • @ Tabman
    “the pension age has to rise, ”

    Really? You want 68 year olds teaching tiny children do you? You want 68 year olds operating on you do you? Or 68 year old firemen carrying you ot of burning buildings? Only they won’t of course, because many of them will be dead before they even become eligible to claim their pension; or they will have opted out of their pensions well before that because they can’t afford them, or they are too unealthy or tired to go on working. That’s what this mean and squalid government is depending on. That way the government will pay out much, much less in pension payments. That is what this is all about. That’s why 68 has been decreed by actuaries as the age at which ordinary Joes should retire. People in the public sector know this; they know that they are being conned by the rapacious and greedy Right. Red Rag knows it too: http://www.redrag1.blogspot.com

  • I’m in favour of the Teachers strike (not the other sectors). I haven’t seen or read anywhere the simple argument that teachers are building the society and workforce of tomorrow, and that we need good pay and conditions in Teaching to attract the most capable people.

  • As for Jeremy Clarkson, he operates rather like Boris Johnson. Both of them say deeply unpleasant things about large groups of people (remember Johnson’s comments about the people of Liverpool) and they hope that by adopting the guise of buffoons their deeply offensive remarks and right wing agenda will be more acceptable. When people express their distress at these sick and vicious remarks they are characterised by Clarkson and Johnson’s supporters as having no sense of humour. A very sophisticated form of bullying on the national scale.

  • @MacK
    “You want 68 year olds teaching tiny children do you?” Yes of course! Why ever not?
    “You want 68 year olds operating on you do you?” Again why not? Actually make that a definite yes, if it’s a complex op requiring years of expertise. Rather a 68 y.o. than a 30 y.o. who’s only done the op 20 times.
    “Or 68 year old firemen carrying you ot of burning buildings?” On a conditional basis, yes. That is, if they’ve passed an annual medical and fitness test – again, why ever not?

    I can’t imagine what sort of 68 year olds you know, but I have many friends in their 70s and in the main they are perfectly capable of working. In fact most of them DO work, extremely hard, in voluntary jobs – sometimes quite physical ones involving lifting and loading. Some remain self-employed in very active jobs.

    “many of them will be dead before they even become eligible to claim their pension”. Sorry MacK, absolute nonsense, most women now in their 40s and 50s can expect to live to their mid or late 80s. This being LDV I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong but I saw data recently that stated your 50s are a danger zone, in terms of life expectancy, to the extent that you have more chance of dying in your 50s than your 60s. If you make it to 65 you have a jolly good chance of making it to 85.

  • @ Ann Keelan

    “I can’t imagine what sort of 68 year olds you know, but I have many friends in their 70s and in the main they are perfectly capable of working. In fact most of them DO work, extremely hard, in voluntary jobs – sometimes quite physical ones involving lifting and loading. ”

    You can always walk away from voluntary jobs: that’s why they are called “voluntary” People are always pleasant towards volunteers because employers are glad to have them; unlike real workers they don’t cost anything. It’s a totally different thing to be forced to work well into your old age in difficult and stressful circumstances under demanding and unsympathetic employers who resent paying you.

    “You want 68 year olds teaching tiny children do you?” Yes of course! Why ever not?

    You’ve obviously never taught! The activity exhausts healthy 30 year olds.

    “If you make it to 65 you have a jolly good chance of making it to 85.”

    Many of the people who are living in to their eighties now were inveigled into early retirement under Thatcher in the 1980s which shows that if you wish to see old bones you need to retire earlier not later.

  • MacK, a friend in her 70s taught special needs children, which I’m sure you will agree is about as demanding and exhausting as it gets, and she is still upset that she got “scrapped” at 60. She would love to still be teaching. She was good at it, the kids and parents loved her, she loved the job, she could still be doing it now, and the mandatory retirement was like a bereavement for her, even with a good marriage and an active social life.

    And have you never noticed how many previously healthy men die within 6-18 months of retirement? You don’t think it’s anything to do with that sense of being cast aside when they still had years of activity, reward and productivity ahead of them? It hits them hard. And what about the vast age that many Catholic priests make it to after retiring at 70-something?

    Sorry but 60-something is not old these days (a straw poll of friends tells me that “old” starts to kick in at about 78)
    and 65 is way too young to retire in most jobs. Clearly, people doing manual labour or physically dangerous jobs need different provision. But I honestly believe most people would want to carry on longer if they weren’t made to feel they were somehow “job-blocking”.

    We are in danger of judging the capabilities and expectations of older people by the needs of those who are ILL. We absolutely must take proper care of those who cannot work through sickness and infirmity, but to expect 45 years of tax-paying to fund 25-30 years of retirement is an utter fantasy.

  • MacK – you’re trapped in a straight-jacket that believes that people do one type of job all their career and then stop. Full stop. That model died years ago.

    It makes far more sense for people to have average salary pensions so that they can phase how hard they push at their careers – taking time out or downsizing for a period to care for children or relatives for example – in stead of being forced to push onwards and upwards to max out their earnings just before retirement. How many people drop dead just before or after taking retirement in the current model? With a career average pension they can phase their retirement, perhaps dropping the number of days a week they work, job-sharing, and/or ofering their expertise and experience into the voluntary sector.

    The simple facts are that, contrary to your socialist mindset, everyone is an individual and the working model and type of work that suits them best at different stages in their lives is unique. Its you and your ilk who would force them into one type of work, ever and unchanging.

  • Ann Keelan – eloquently put, and just shows the narrow blinkered view of MacK and his socialist friends.

  • peter tyzack 2nd Dec '11 - 12:48pm

    If you don’t like what they say or do, don’t watch them don’t buy their products. I avoid buying anything made or produced in France(unnecessary nuclear testing in the Pacific), I don’t watch Ross, Brand or now Clarkson… I give others my business. Truth is, if you don’t actually do something about the things that are wrong in the world, then you are condoning them.

  • @Ann Keenan

    “But I honestly believe most people would want to carry on longer if they weren’t made to feel they were somehow “job-blocking”.”

    That’s not my experience. Everyone I meet who is retired, men particularly, are delighted to be so. But I think that people’s attitudes in this respect are influenced more by class, topography, income and wealth than you think. For example, the life expectancy of a man in Greater Glasgow is 73.1 but in Westminster it is 83.4

    “We absolutely must take proper care of those who cannot work through sickness and infirmity, but to expect 45 years of tax-paying to fund 25-30 years of retirement is an utter fantasy.”

    The reason that people fail to understand the level of anger behind the public sector strikes is that they simply do not understand the way in which public sector pensions are paid for. One of the good things the strikes have done is to make people aware that most public sector workers already make a high level of subscription to their pension schemes. For years the government and the Right Wing tabloids have perpetrated the myth that public sector workers make no payment whatsoever towards their pensions. This is because most public sector pensions are described as “Unfunded” But that does not mean that they are not paid for. On the contrary, subscriptions paid into unfunded schemes go straight to the Treasury and not into a fund which is invested on behalf of the potential pensioners. Subscriptions paid to “Funded” schemes, on the other hand, go into a fund which is invested and the proceeds returned eventually to the benefit pensioners. In the public sector the Local Government Scheme is funded; the NHS, the Teacher’s, Civil Service, armed forces and police pension schemes are unfunded. Therefore, at any one time, pensioners in unfunded schemes rely on subscriptions to their scheme from current workers for their pensions, not on a “fund”. The subscriptions to unfunded schemes are therefore a tax on workers which is no invested and goes straight into the pockets of the treasury. The “unfunded” public sector workers are a cash cow for the treasury. That is why, thanks to the coalition, these workers will be paying a tax of 3% or more that will go straight to the treasury to pay off the deficit. They will be forced to work until they drop, and will receive a much smaller pension at the end of it. They are sick of being used as cash cows by this government to pay off the huge black hole in the country’s finances caused by the financial sector while the bankers get off scott free. That’s why they went on strike.

    @Tabman

    “The simple facts are that, contrary to your socialist mindset, everyone is an individual and the working model and type of work that suits them best at different stages in their lives is unique. Its you and your ilk who would force them into one type of work, ever and unchanging.”

    What nonsense. It’s the Right who is forcing everyone in the Public Sector to work until they drop and refusing to treat them as individuals. If people want to work until they drop that’s fine, and none of my business, but my personal experience of retired people is that they are delighted to have finished working in their early sixties. It is because I am a Socialist that I wish to offer everybody that choice.

  • Clarkson’s joke reminded me of Anders Breivik and the Norway massacre earlier this year. Perhaps that was the event that triggered Clarkson’s choice of words.

  • Simon Bamonte 2nd Dec '11 - 5:26pm

    @Alistair “Clarkson’s joke reminded me of Anders Breivik and the Norway massacre earlier this year. Perhaps that was the event that triggered Clarkson’s choice of words.”

    One of the reasons so many people are angry about Clarkson’s words is, possibly, due to the fact Breivik quoted Clarkson articles several times in his “manifesto” and was a bit of a fan of Clarkson.

    Clarkson may be joking. But, sadly, there are deranged people out there who may take Clarkson’s words to heart.

  • @MacK “Everyone I meet who is retired, men particularly, are delighted to be so. But I think that people’s attitudes in this respect are influenced more by class, topography, income and wealth than you think.” Yes, agreed… up to a point.

    Look, I KNOW I am lucky. Not everyone is able to get a job that interests them or makes the best use of their skills. I know that I am lucky to work (mostly) with people that enjoy working and for companies that treat people fairly. I know also that my friends and colleagues are not proxies for the general working population. But neither are they all well educated or on high incomes: far from it. (Maybe it’s just that I gravitate to glass-half-full types)

    Your seeming assumption that the average worker can’t wait to escape into retirement, and that employers are “demanding and unsympathetic” and “resent paying you”, is really rather depressing and I honestly don’t believe it’s the norm, otherwise this country’s in even more of a mess than I realised.

  • P.S. MacK you’ve said a lot about public sector pensions but not how much you actually contribute. Are you prepared to tell us what % have you been paying?

  • For once, and to my utter embarrassment and horror, I find myself in agreement with the Tory government. Public sector pensions as they currently stand are unaffordable and unsustainable. The notion that one can work to the age of 65 and then retire on a decent pension will soon be a chimera, if it isn’t one already. Certainly so in the private sector, where there is no public purse to keep the pot topped up. While I sympathise with public sector workers, who are constantly disparaged as “unproductive” and “non wealth creating” by Tory politicians and right-wing commentators, and feel genuinely aggrieved by what the government is doing to their pensions, I think they have picked the wrong fight, and would be far better occupied protesting against the cuts and the stealth privatisation of the NHS.

    And what about people like myself who work in the public sector, but won’t get a public sector pension because we work on short-term contracts? The trade union leaderships don’t seem to give two hoots about us, though we represent a rapidly growing segment of the workforce.

    My aunt, who died earlier this year at the age of 100, retired at 60, having worked in the public sector since the 1940s. She received more by way of her occupational pension than she ever did in salary. That is a patent absurdity that will become increasingly common – and horrifically costly – as more and more people live as long as my aunt. Ironically, my aunt would have been more than happy to keep working for a further 10 or 15 years, which she actually did for nothing in the voluntary sector while the state maintained her on the scrapheap with a miserly pension.

    One of the few good things this government has done is get rid of the mandatory retirement age. And one of the most disgraceful things employers have done in recent times is launch a last-minute cull of older workers before the September deadline. We should be encouraging as many older people to work as are willing and able, and to get across to employers that ageism is as anti-social a mindset as racism, sexism and homophobia.

    If I look at my own family, the ones who had the shortest lives were children brought up in industrial cities (especially Glasgow), and who worked in filthy industries, like mining and steel. Those who lived the longest were farmers, especially yeomen from the hills, who breathed clean air and had some kind of control of their own lives. None of them ever retired.

  • MacK – “Therefore, at any one time, pensioners in unfunded schemes rely on subscriptions to their scheme from current workers for their pensions, not on a “fund”. The subscriptions to unfunded schemes are therefore a tax on workers which is no invested and goes straight into the pockets of the treasury. The “unfunded” public sector workers are a cash cow for the treasury. That is why, thanks to the coalition, these workers will be paying a tax of 3% or more that will go straight to the treasury to pay off the deficit. They will be forced to work until they drop, and will receive a much smaller pension at the end of it. They are sick of being used as cash cows by this government to pay off the huge black hole in the country’s finances caused by the financial sector while the bankers get off scott free. That’s why they went on strike.”

    Halleluyah! Now you’re at least half way to being able to understand the problem, although i’m not hopeful.

    These pensions are a giant Ponzi scheme, whereby Governments of both stripes since 1948 (when Labour willfully mis-implemented Beveridge’s fully-funded pensions) have lied to people about how their pensions were paid for.

    Tax coming in from current workers is paid out to current pensioners. This is fine when those pensioners don’t live very long, ie there are a lot of workers paying for each pensioner. Problem is, when those pesky pensioners survive longer and longer then there are more and more of them for each worker to support. Until we get to 2056 when each worker will be supporting half a pensioner (on top of paying for everything else and all the debt interest).

    That’s why pensions need reform

  • MacK – “That is why, thanks to the coalition, these workers will be paying a tax of 3% or more that will go straight to the treasury to pay off the deficit.”

    What utter tubbish. The “contributions” paid by current public sector workers go nowhere near covering the pensions paid out to public sector pensioners. The deficit between what’s being paid in and what is going out is forecast to be around £9bn; in other words every private sector taxpayer is keeping the public sector’s guaranteed pensions afloat.

  • @Ann Keenan.

    “Your seeming assumption that the average worker can’t wait to escape into retirement, and that employers are “demanding and unsympathetic” and “resent paying you”, is really rather depressing and I honestly don’t believe it’s the norm, otherwise this country’s in even more of a mess than I realised.”

    Yes, it is. And the coalition is making it far, far worse, but I am optimistic that things will be far better once the Right are removed from power.

    @Ann Keenan

    “P.S. MacK you’ve said a lot about public sector pensions but not how much you actually contribute. Are you prepared to tell us what % have you been paying?”

    All public sector pension contributions are a matter of public record unlike contributions in the private sector. Haven’t you noticed we never receive any information about payouts in the private sector unless they happen to be the outrageous ones paid to bankers? My contributions throughout a long working life have been 15%. That has been made up of 6% of my gross and 9% “contributions” from my employer but that employer’s contribution is always taken into account and reckoned to be part of a public sector workers’ salary, which is why public sector worker’s salaries have traditionally appeared lower. Even though my initial starting salary was extremely low my contributions of 15% were mandatory and I couldn’t opt out of them. Policemen pay even higher contributions. Their personal contributions in some cases are as high as 11% without taking into account the so-called employers’ contribution. My great, gold plated pension, by the way, is £5000 a year, and falling, thanks to this coalition’ s policies. As, I say, Public Sector pensions are a matter of public record. You can find all the facts about their funding and contributions on the internet.

    P.S. I notice that you haven’t commented on the discrepancy between the life expectancy of a man in Glasgow and a man in Westminster. If you can expect to die at 73 then retiring at 68 is not a great prospect but if you live in Westminster and expect to live until 84 retirement at 68 is possibly more acceptable.

    @ Tabman

    “in other words every private sector taxpayer is keeping the public sector’s guaranteed pensions afloat.”

    Six million public sector workers aren’t taxpayers then? Those public sector workers are paying for their pensions twice: once as contributions to which an extra 3% is now being added by this appalling coalition and then again through taxation. Add to that a vicious pay freeze and their pensions downgraded in value by reference to the CPI. Now even you should understand why public sector workers went on strike.

    “The “contributions” paid by current public sector workers go nowhere near covering the pensions paid out to public sector pensioners.”

    You are completely forgetting about the “contributions” from public sector “employers” which are usually much greater. For example, as I have explained above, I paid 6% all my working life and the so called employer’s contribution was 9% but in effect I paid 15% overall because that extra 9% was assumed to be part of my salary and therefore kept it lower by 9% And of course, like all the other six million of Public Sector taxpayers I have paid my taxes throughout my working life unlike some business people who have cleverly avoided them.

    By the way, why is it that this dreadful government and the Right are always telling us that there is no money for workers but can magic money out of the air to pour down bankers’ throats by way of quantitative easing?

  • Simon Bamonte

    “One of the reasons so many people are angry about Clarkson’s words is, possibly, due to the fact Breivik quoted Clarkson articles several times in his “manifesto” and was a bit of a fan of Clarkson.”

    I didn’t know that. If it’s true then Clarkson’s odious remarks about public sector workers were even more disgusting and irresponsible than I had thought. People who wield such influence should be very careful indeed about their public utterances.

  • @MacK says “My contributions throughout a long working life have been 15%. That has been made up of 6% of my gross and 9% “contributions” from my employer but that employer’s contribution is always taken into account and reckoned to be part of a public sector workers’ salary, which is why public sector worker’s salaries have traditionally appeared lower.”

    Your contributions have never been 15%. You state yourself that they are 6%. How do you imagine it works in the private sector? Don’t you think that ALL salaries are calculated to allow for the employer’s pension contribution? – that is, if they get a pension at all.

    I suggest you look at the figures just published in Liberal Democrat News (page 7, editorial) and see whether your sense of grievance withstands 2 minutes with a calculator. Most people in the private sector have paid far more into their pensions than you and will receive far less.

    As Lib Dems should we not be aiming to look dispassionately at the evidential basis for policy? The current situation is not sustainable. They got the life expectancy wrong years ago and no government has had the guts to face up to it until it’s too late. We all (private and public) need to work for longer and lower our expectations. Nobody’s going to do well out of the recalculations, but refusing to face reality only defers the pain.

  • @ Ann Keenan

    If private sector workers want a pension or want to protect their pensions they should join a Union and make the employers’ cough up!

  • @Ann Keelan

    “As Lib Dems should we not be aiming to look dispassionately at the evidential basis for policy?”

    Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and members of the National Association of Head Teachers for the first time ever in their history went on strike against Liberal Democrat policy on public sector pensions. Teachers, lecturers and head teachers are hardly the sort of people to think evidence unimportant. They have looked at the “evidence” and decided that your policies are wrong. That’s why they took the unprecedented decision to go on strike. Liberal democrat policies are wrong on this both morally and politically. It is they who are refusing to face political reality.

  • @ Oranjepan

    So, only a Liberal Democrat interpretation of “evidence” is objective and valid?

  • @Oranjepan

    “the mood of the strike was more confrontational than constructive.”

    The public sector workers were on strike. Strikes, by definition, are confrontational.

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