Complaints over Clarkson One Show comments reach 21,000

Jeremy Clarkson made his remarks on the BBC's The One Show

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The BBC has received more than 21,000 complaints over Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's remarks on The One Show, including comments that striking public sector workers should be shot.

Unison had called for the presenter to be sacked and he later apologised.

BBC Audience Services said the corporation had received 21,335 complaints as of Friday morning.

It said it had also received 314 messages of support for Mr Clarkson and his comments on Wednesday night's show.

During the programme Mr Clarkson also made a remark about people who threw themselves in front of trains. One Show presenter Matt Baker made an apology during the show about those comments.

Trade union Unison said it welcomed Mr Clarkson's apology and invited him to spend a day with a healthcare assistant.

The deputy general secretary of Unison, the UK's largest union, Karen Jennings, told the BBC: "We've accepted the apology.

"He's recognised that he went too far in saying what he said and what we're doing now is extending our hand to him to come and work with a healthcare assistant to see just how they work and the healthcare they deliver.

"I think he would enjoy that."

'Execute them'

The complaints came after an exchange, on Wednesday, in which Clarkson presented two views when asked about that day's strike over pensions by public sector workers:

  • "I think they (the strikes) have been fantastic. Absolutely. London today has just been empty. Everybody stayed at home, you can whizz about, restaurants are empty," he said.
  • "It's also like being back in the 70s. It makes me feel at home somehow," said the Top Gear presenter, before adding: "But we have to balance this though, because this is the BBC" and went on: "Frankly, I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"
  • When the presenters pointed out that these were Clarkson's personal views, he said: "They're not. I've just given two views for you."

Clarkson, who has flown to China, has said he had not intended for his comments to be taken seriously and was "happy to apologise" if offence had been caused.

'Not perfectly judged'

Unison initially called for the Top Gear presenter to be sacked by the BBC over what it described as "appalling" comments. It said it was seeking legal advice over the issue about whether Clarkson could be referred to police.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was "a silly thing to say... I'm sure he didn't mean it".

The BBC apologised over the comments on Thursday, saying "the item was not perfectly judged".

BBC Audience Services has had 21,954 contacts, including 21,335 complaints and 619 comments, from viewers who felt that Mr Clarkson made offensive comments regarding the strikes and suicide.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that due to the level of complaints the episode of The One Show would not be put on the iPlayer. She said each decision about the iPlayer was made on its own merits.

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies around the UK on Wednesday as a public sector strike over pensions disrupted schools, hospitals and other services.

Unions oppose plans to make members pay more and work longer to earn what they say will be smaller pensions.

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