PM backs Jeremy Clarkson as petition to reinstate him reaches nearly 700,000

Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron.
Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron.

Prime Minister David Cameron has given his support to Doncaster punch-row Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson as a petition to reinstate him reached nearly 700,000.

The PM, who is friends with the star and is also his constituency MP, described him as a “huge talent” and said he hoped the situation could be resolved.

Mr Cameron told BBC Midlands Today: “I don’t know exactly what happened. He is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent.

“I see that he said he regrets some of what happened. All I would say - because he is a talent and he does amuse and entertain so many people, including my children who’ll be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air - I hope this can be sorted out because it is a great programme and he is a great talent.”

Asked if the BBC was wrong to suspend him, Mr Cameron said: “I don’t know what happened. Every organisation has to be able to be free to manage its talent and to say to people, ‘you can do this’, or ‘you can’t do that’, so I don’t want to interfere in the running of the BBC.”

The PM’s support came as details of the “fracas” that led to Clarkson’s suspension emerged.

The bust up with producer Oison Tymon came when the controversial Top Gear host was told he could not order a steak at the Simonstone Hotel, near Hawes, North Yorkshire after a day filming in the county.

The Sun and Mirror reported the hotel’s chef had gone home by the time they arrived and the stars were offered cold meat platters, although the presenter requested a £21.95 steak.

The papers quoted a source who claimed Clarkson blamed Mr Tymon for not arranging hot food and described the incident as a “scuffle”. The hotel’s general manager then cooked the meal for the star, the source claimed.

Earlier Clarkson - who is a friend of the Prime Minister and lives in his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire - laughed off his latest controversy, telling reporters he was “just off to the job centre”, but said he has regrets about what happened.

The BBC’s director-general Tony Hall also said he was a “fan” of Clarkson, but added that allegations of a fracas were “serious”.

More than 670,000 people from across the world have signed an online petition demanding that the outspoken host be reinstated.

Yesterday, the 54-year-old joked as he left his flat in Kensington amid a media scrum.

He said: “I’ve been suspended haven’t I? I’m just off to the job centre. At least I’m going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight.”

Asked if his suspension was over a row about food he said “no, no, no” but said “yes” when asked if he had any regrets about what had happened.

Clarkson was photographed in the crowd at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s game against Paris St-Germain last night.

It was reported that a BBC disciplinary panel has already been convened to decide his fate.

Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who conducted the investigation into Newsnight’s false expose of Lord McAlpine, is to chair the panel, the Radio Times said, with witnesses expected to be called by the end of the week.

A formal disciplinary letter summoning the presenter to appear at the hearing is expected to be posted today.

Two episodes of this series have been postponed and the future of the third and final episode is unclear after the bust-up which took place after filming in Newcastle.

This is the latest in a long line of controversies which has seen the presenter offend foreign diplomats, viewers, MPs and his own bosses at the BBC.

Clarkson was put on what was called his final warning last year following a racism row after claims he used the N-word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe during filming of the BBC2 programme.