So, we have the most awaited verdict since the trial of OJ Simpson. It's official: Jeremy Clarkson has been sacked as the presenter of Top Gear. How are we going to survive without this hard-drinking, chain-smoking, politically incorrect and surprisingly fat ex-public schoolboy?
Sacking him was doubtless a difficult decision for the BBC, given he is an enormous financial and ratings asset to the corporation. And on this occasion clearly Clarkson was out of control. If the allegations about a punch so severe it led to an A&E visit are true, that's appalling and completely unacceptable. It's clear you can't lay a finger on a colleague in any workplace, particularly a publicly funded one like the BBC. So that needs to be punished to the maximum degree. And the producer in question - Oisin Tymon - should not suffer professionally for this either. Personally I'd immediately promote him to the role of executive producer. See if Clarkson punches him then.
However, sacking Clarkson is going too far and another example of the corporation's now ingrained culture of self-flagellation. Just putting this into context, didn't Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest club manager in English football history, kick a shoe into David Beckham's face causing an injury just above his left eye? Did he get sacked? I think not. Given Top Gear's global reach - over 200 countries currently air the programme - Jeremy Clarkson is one of the biggest television stars on the planet. In 2013, The Guinness Book of Records deemed Top Gear to be the most watch factual programme in the world. And Clarkson's got to go because he's hard to work with?
There are double standards here. Over at ITV, Simon Cowell would literally have to kill an X-factor contestant and eat them live on air before ITV would even consider sacking him. Even then he'd be offered a panel show on ITV2. You have to protect your star assets and here the Beeb are found wanting. As with the diabolical over-reaction to Sachsgate that ended Jonathan Ross's incredibly successful reign at Auntie, this is once again an employer at war with their own employee. Leak and counter leak over the years about 'last warning this' and 'last chance saloon that' paint a picture of an organisation at odds with their own talent.
Jezza is irreplaceable at the Beeb. He's like Mrs Brown's Boys - hated by everyone in Soho, but loved by most of the rest of the country. And in Clarkson's case, the world. Himself, May and Hammond are a counterbalance to a lot of the tediously generic and cloyingly politically correct bile that's served up on all of the major networks on a daily basis. The Top Gear team's antics do often backfire, but that's sort of the point. Jokes about minicab drivers, gypsies and Mexicans are frankly a bit embarrassing, and nearly sparking another war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands is certainly regrettable, but what these men do is always entertaining, compelling and a reflection of what the viewing audience want to see. It's the same reason Frankie Boyle deserves to be heard, even if he's not everyone's can of Irn Bru.
Jeremy Clarkson is a star. Yes, he can't go around punching people (by the way, no one minded when he punched Piers Morgan...), but it's his job to be demanding, impatient, irrational, impossible. It's his job to keep helicopters waiting, to have his favourite brown Smarties separated in a bowl and to demand someone's head when he doesn't get a hot steak. After all, an 8oz sirloin steak with fondant potatoes, pan fried wild mushrooms and green peppercorn sauce is a small price to pay for Clarkson's contribution to our culture and to the coffers of our much loved public service broadcaster (£50million annually and counting - that's a lot of original TV drama, documentaries and live orchestras paid for).
Going forward, it's clear Top Gear is dead without him. There is no motoring show they can create which will make a ripple of the impact that Top Gear makes. Why? Because Top Gear isn't about the cars. It's the heavily scripted, beer-bellied, corduroy-jacketed banter between Clarkson and his TV bitches James May and Richard 'Hamster' Hammond. If you think all of this is wrong, ask yourself why Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and myriad other broadcasters are hurriedly drafting emails to his agent requesting his services as we speak. And they'll give him as much hot steak as he likes.
The whole situation is deeply regrettable, not least for a talented producer in Oisin Tymon who's going to have to carry this story around with him till the end of time. At the moment the only clear winner I can see is Jeremy Clarkson's local landlord and international sales of rose wine.