Jim Davidson's career has been on something of a downward trajectory for some time. Once fêted by Margaret Thatcher, the toast of Conservative Association Dinners and host of The Generation Game, he is now somewhat sidelined in the entertainment world, if not in the twilight world of the Conservative party.
Last night on Hell's Kitchen the reasons why Davidson is now arguably persona non grata in mainstream entertainment were displayed with embarrassing clarity.
In summary, a series of exchanges with fellow contestant, Brian Dowling, resulted in Jim Davidson, in the words of the presenter Angus Deayton, "being asked to leave the show". I understand that this coincided almost precisely with the moment Davidson asked in writing to leave the show.
ITV.com gives the words used in the exchanges (there's a set-up video from YouTube below). It's worth reading. Suffice it to say that it involves Jim Davidson using the word "shirt-lifters", talking about a 'gay preen' look, accusing Dowling of 'playing the homophobic card' and, finally, starting some nonsense about "G.A.Y - good as you" which he later tried to imply was sympathetic to gay people. Bear in mind that this all happened after a hard day in the kitchen and a glass or twain of wine all round, with resultant hyperventilation stirred up by the televisual setting and, no doubt, skilful editing.
Paul Young (yes, he is still alive) played something of the umpire's role. He is a friend of Davidson and of a similar generation. Even he made clear that he thought Davidson was out of order. And in a moment of perspicuity and, indeed, perspicacity, when Davidson asked "What happens to us - where do we go?", Young said: "Well, we're the old generation, you and me, Jim. Things have moved on". Wise words.
Full marks to Brian Dowling. He stood his ground. Despite being very emotional and fighting to speak through tears and sobs, he refused to be encouraged away from Davidson by the ladies in the company. Dowling said his piece very effectively to Davidson, culminating in the statement: "You are the most offensive person I have ever met".
Thank goodness the producers had the good sense to ask Davidson to leave after all that and, it seems Mr Davidson also realised that he was on a hiding to nothing.
Concluding by saying "in fairness to Jim Davidson" would be going too far. However, it has to be said that nothing Jim Davidson said or did on that programme surprised me. He did what you would expect an unreconstructed right-winger to do. He did what you would expect Jim Davidson to do. He even asked: "What about white, straight, Anglo-Saxon males like me? Who cares about us? Where do we go?" As if white, straight, Anglo-Saxon males don't hold sufficient aces in life to be sensitive to others' feelings, like the rest of us (I'm a Celt).
None of what Davidson said or did cannot be found expressed in some corners of some pubs, clubs and homes in the country everyday. Like the Jade Goody/Big Brother stuff. But that does not excuse it for one second being blurted out on national TV without somewhat career-limiting consequences for the proponent.
(It seems Davidson is suffering from a mild case of Bernard Manning Syndrome, by the way. Having spent a lifetime making a career out of debatably offensive, or, at least, patronising, material (his act for many years majored on his friend "Chalkie", who was.....you guessed it) he is now viewing the public's arguable rejection of his previously lucrative views with complete bemusement.)
Above all, Davidson was just boorishly insensitive to Dowling. Having had a career in light entertainment, you would have thought Davidson would have shown at least an atom of sensitivity towards the chap.
Take one of the mildest things Davidson said to Dowling (who admittedly was drawing on all his considerable reality show skills): "If I was in a pub and you were there as well, I wouldn't talk to you."
It's the kind of thing you might think, but would you ever say it to someone unless they had actually said something outrageous and needed being taken down a peg or two? Of course not. And to say it to such an obviously sensitive fellow as Dowling (who incidentally has been unusual for a ex-Big Brother contestant in displaying a respectable amount of talent in television presenting, even if it is often doing that annoying ITV nightime polyfilla show with the gameboard to his right) is just not fair.
So Davidson gets his comeuppance. (As Harry Enfield's pub-berating character might say "Oi! Davidson! You're out of order!"). Unlike Jade Goody with India and Boris Johnson with Liverpool, somehow I don't see Jim Davidson doing an apologia tour of Old Compton Street, doing penitential stand-up in Heaven or, far more relevantly, apologising to the human race in general. That's the point. He is such an insensitive person that salvaging his mainstream career with some humility and grace is simply not in him, I suspect. Instead, we'll probably get the affronted "I didn't mean any offence...many of my best friends are gay" defence. But I live in hope of being proved wrong.
So, as Jim Davidson asked last night: "Where do I go?"
Answer, presumably Jim: where you've been recently. Dubai is it, some of the time? One suspects it may well be anywhere except mainstream British public life.
Has anyone got Martin Bashir's number?
UPDATE: You can see the clip of the “dust-up” from last night here on ITV's site - under “Latest clips” – “He’s a horrible man”.