Belfast Telegraph

At least Nick Knowles believes what he's saying - unlike Jermey Clarkson

By Jane Graham

Nick Knowles has taken a pounding this week after he gave an interview gushing about how his new girlfriend Jessica Morris - whom I feel it's my duty as a journalist to describe as a leggy, busty blonde and 25 years his junior - had "made him a better person".

Knowles was mocked in various quarters about the level of his delusion (ie what could possibly have attracted the photogenic and ambitious publicist to the wealthy high profile TV star?). Other critics took the opportunity to draw attention to his other shortcomings - including his suits (usually ill-fitting), his sense of humour (occasionally bawdy) and his face (often hairy.)

Despite my penchant for a hairy face and a bawdy joke, I hadn't given Nick Knowles much thought beyond a general notion of him as a presenter of cheesy quiz and home improvement shows. But I felt rather touched by the naive earnestness with which he spoke.

Bearing in mind his blokey persona, it was sweet to hear him rave about how 'head over heels' he was. Yes, he sounded vulnerable, even a bit silly, but so what - he was clearly wholly sincere, extremely happy and content to hand all credit for his newly blissful state to a woman.

Contrast and compare to that other bastion of blokeyness on mainstream TV, Jeremy Clarkson.

Clarkson is richer and has an even higher profile than Knowles, so if she was really as ruthless as they say, Knowles' girlfriend might have been better making a beeline for him at the BBC Christmas disco. Recent allegations about Clarkson's affair with Top Gear colleague Phillipa Sage suggest that he might have been up for it, though if she was hoping to bask in glowing public tributes, Ms Morris would have been disappointed.

Because Clarkson has only ever been obsessively in love with one person, and I think we all know which jowlly, paunchy, baggy eyed lothario has beguiled and amused him for most of his life. Jeremy doesn't like to talk about friends or family - he prefers to talk about himself, with particular reference to how audacious his un-PC comments are, and how refreshing his frankness (eg his misogyny and borderline racism) is in our over-regulated nanny state. You don't have to think he's a brave trailblazer for describing the environmentalist lobby as leftover 'old trade unionists and CND lesbians', or Gordon Brown as a 'one-eyed Scottish idiot' but he wouldn't disrespect you if you did.

The problem with Clarkson isn't the dodgy things he says, it's that he doesn't even mean them. As he said to Alistair Campbell, "I don't believe what I write, any more than you believe what you say".

What really inspires Clarkson is the promotion of Clarksonism. Unlike daft old Nick Knowles, he doesn't passionately believe in anything much. Tellingly, his greatest love, other than JC, is reserved for fast and powerful machines, which he keenly believes have souls.

Has it crossed his mind that his wife and children may also possess souls? One assumes that he would never be unfaithful to his car.

In the meantime the new series of DIY SOS sees Nick Knowles in a position that Clarkson wouldn't countenance - getting his hands dirty in order to make someone else's life better. The matey camaraderie which propels the show seems real - unlike Top Gear's - and the gentle, kind way Knowles talks to the families involved suggests he actually cares what happens to other people. I know which bloke I'd rather overlook an age gap for.

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