Gove says Clarkson should not be sacked for using the N-word

Education Secretary says "He's been clear in his apology and I think we should leave matter there".

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After initially denying that he used the word "nigger" while reciting "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" during Top Gear filming ("I did not use the N-word. Never use it. The Mirror has gone way too far this time", he tweeted), Jeremy Clarkson is now "begging" for "forgiveness". And one person prepared to offer it is Michael Gove. Asked on Good Morning Britain whether Clarkson should be sacked, he replied: 

No, I don't think so. As I understand Jeremy Clarkson has apologised, the word in question is horrendous and shouldn't be used. It seems to me this was a word he never intended to mutter, never intended to broadcast, he's been clear in his apology and I think we should leave matter there.

He added: "The use of this type of this type of language is unacceptable and it's right that anyone who uses language like this, even in error, should apologise."

Here's Clarkson's full statement: 

Ordinarily I don't respond to newspaper allegations but on this occasion I feel I must make an exception. A couple of years ago I recorded an item for Top Gear in which I quote the rhyme 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe'. Of course, I was well aware that in the best-known version of this rhyme there is a racist expression that I was extremely keen to avoid. The full rushes show that I did three takes. In two, I mumbled where the offensive word would normally occur and in the third I replaced it altogether with the word teacher. Now when I viewed this footage several weeks later I realised that in one of the mumbled versions if you listen very carefully with the sound turned right up it did appear that I'd actually used the word I was trying to obscure. I was mortified by this, horrified. It is a word I loathe and I did everything in my power to make sure that that version did not appear in the programme that was transmitted.

I have here the note that was sent at the time to the production office and it says: 'I didn't use the N-word here but I've just listened through my headphones and it sounds like I did. Is there another take that we could use?'

Please be assured I did everything in my power to not use that word, as I'm sitting here begging your forgiveness for the fact my efforts obviously weren't quite good enough, thank you.

For now, his fate remains unclear. He tells today's Sun that he's spoken to BBC director general Tony Hall and that it's "a worrying time". But does anyone doubt that a lesser figure than Clarkson would already be clearing their desk? 

George Eaton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.