Being here in Croatia, I haven’t yet seen the new Top Gear line-up of Chris Harris, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness. But I am very much looking forward to seeing it. I liked the Clarkson version, although when he and his colleagues were axed/left, it was the right time. Efforts to move on failed, with Chris Evans being a square peg in a round hole. And whilst Matt LeBlanc was excellent, the BBC have now got it right, right? Or have they?
The Independent described the first show as “dull, dull, dull” and a number of people bemoaned the absence of a female presenter. I cannot comment on the first bit because I’ll need to actually watch the show, but the female presenter bit concerns me.
In principle, I could not care less who presents what as long as they are good at presenting. I have no issue with Tess Daly and Claudia Winkelman presenting Strictly because they are, very obviously, the best people for the job. I don’t find myself thinking, “If only they had a bloke presenting instead of one of the women.” Or Newsnight, which has an all-female roster of brilliant journalists.
I do understand the argument that says more women should be in prestigious media roles. This on the grounds that there are so many talented women. Which brings me to Top Gear.
I don’t think there is any law that says the presenters will always be men. I don’t look at the show and think, “Well, this is a blokes show which should be presented solely by blokes.” I see it more as something evolutionary.
Clarkson, May and Hammond represent an older strand of media. I do not doubt their talents – well, not the talents of Clarkson and May: I never rated the other one – but theirs was in a time and a place. The seaside postcard humour, the occasional descent into very borderline racism, the outdated laddism is fading into TV history, rather like Bernard Manning, Jim Davidson and Freddie Starr. It’s not being banned. Things are just changing.
For that reason, let’s do everything to ensure women can succeed in all walks of life but let us not descend into tokenism. It is not that there is no woman who can present Top Gear, it’s just as Michael Buble might have put it, we just haven’t found her yet.
Let’s enjoy Chris, Freddie and Paddy, not fret about the fact they are men. Some day, there will be a female Top Gear presenter, maybe there will be three female presenters. The BBC deals better with advancing the opportunities for women than any other media organisation. Keep up the good work of striving for genuine equality and we will get there. Even on Top Gear.