We've already said goodbye. (Getty/Neil Mockford & Alex Huckle)
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You're not allowed to punch people. Since when is that a left-right issue?

Jeremy Clarkson wasn't fired because of the PC brigade or the leftie BBC. You're not allowed to hit people - end of story.

The news will come too late for many of Louise Mensch’s former colleagues in Westminster, but just for the record, if there are any MPs reading this, she wouldn’t have minded if you’d punched her in the face.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the only conclusion I can draw from a set of bizarre tweets sent out by the former Tory MP, successful author and Sun columnist this afternoon in the wake of the BBC’s announcement that Jeremy Clarkson will no longer present Top Gear after he punched a producer in the face.

An angry Mensch tweeted to her 93,000 Twitter followers from her New York home: “Britain has got so pathetically wimpy #Clarkson”.

Apparently the much-publicised Clarkson “fracas” was not in fact down to an over-indulged middle-aged millionaire with anger issues but entirely the fault of “our culture of effeminacy” which, she says, “knows no bounds”.

Mensch went on to justify her point to a follower querying her first tweet, saying: “I definitely do think it [violence] is OK. Between equally matched, and no serious harm done? Yep.” She then added for good measure: “Assuming equal rank etc as in this case”.

So what exactly is Louise Mensch saying? That it’s okay if you hit a colleague of roughly the same fighting ability or size?

Clarkson is a big man and I imagine on a good day he can throw quite a punch, using that huge belly as ballast, so I assume Mensch is only happy for him to punch colleagues who fit the same bill.

Which is strange because, from the photos I’ve seen of Clarkson’s victim, Oisin Tymon, he doesn’t look like he’d be any match physically for Clarkson, a veritable featherweight to Clarkson’s heavyweight.

Some of us might also quibble over whether Mensch is right to think that a jobbing BBC staffer such as Tymon does indeed enjoy “equal rank” with the multi-millionaire star of the TV show he produces.

And I suppose we all have different definitions of what constitutes “serious harm” in a fight. Personally, I think I’d be quite cross if someone gave me a cut lip and I had to spend hours in A&E to get it treated, but I guess that just makes me a bit of a wimp.

But then I’m also a woman. So would it be okay for Clarkson to punch women at work as well, Ms Mensch?

After all, some of us are big strapping lasses who can more than hold our own in a bar fight (I know, I’ve done it).

According to her Twitter feed, Mensch later insists that, no, it is not okay for male colleagues to physically attack female colleagues – although, interestingly she doesn’t clarify whether it’s okay for women to hit other women or not, so it’s apparently still a goer for Mensch’s former female MP colleagues to swing a punch or two.

In Mensch’s utopian future, it will mostly be be men who face going into work every day with their fingers crossed that the boss doesn’t smack them in the face because they forgot to put sugar in his coffee. After all, no harm done, eh?

Except there was harm done. To a BBC producer’s face and self-respect. But, in Mensch’s world, that’s just yet more proof of how pathetic we in Britain are.

What Mensch really means is that the fault lies not with Clarkson, who is just a man’s man doing what men do, but with his producer, who failed to fight back and, well, give as good as he got.

Like many of the million-plus signatories to the “Bring Back Clarkson” petition delivered to the BBC, Mensch sees Clarkson not as the workplace bully he is but as the poor victim of political correctness gone mad.

Mensch is not alone, of course. Indeed she is backed up by her employer Rupert Murdoch, who also tweeted: “How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following.”

So if you’re funny, good at your job and lots of people like you, then you can do pretty much anything you like to anyone and get away with it? (Hmmm, now where have we heard that before..?)

The truth is that when people like Louise Mensch imply that Clarkson is a victim, they are basically saying that it’s okay for people to go around punching people who irritate them.

This is not a case of Left versus Right, or about BBC political correctness, or even about whether you’re a fan of Top Gear or not.

I am a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson and I love watching him on TV and reading his various columns. I think he’s funny and irreverent and adds to the gaiety of nations. But I also think the BBC were quite right to terminate his contract.

And if Louise Mensch genuinely believes that it’s okay to punch your colleagues then she may find a queue of people waiting outside her New York apartment block tomorrow morning keen to test out her theory in practice.

Still, no serious harm done, eh?

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a journalist and commentator.

HEINZ BAUMANN/GALLERY STOCK
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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad