TV car show host wins online backing for British PM

( Reuters ) - He's the host of one the world's most popular television programs and now many people in Britain apparently want him to be prime minister as well.

Jeremy Clarkson, the gruff and opinionated presenter of Top Gear, a program about cars watched by 350 million people from Finland to Australia, is the subject of an online campaign being waged in the very heart of British government.

A petition, posted on the official Web site of Prime Minister Gordon Brown (www.pm.gov.uk), calls for Brown to step down and make Clarkson, 47, prime minister instead.

As of Friday, 30,311 people had signed the petition, making it the sixth most popular posted on the site, which since November 2006 has allowed any citizen to make a proposal and try to garner popular support via online signatures.

The campaign for Clarkson, submitted by someone called Joseph Dark, now outranks arguably more pressing issues such as "Reduce the rate of fuel duty" and "Reverse the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics and Astronomy," which have 11,700 and 10,050 signatures respectively.

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister" reads Dark's submission, which has nearly four months to run before it closes on April 17.

Clarkson, who has become popular in Britain for his forthright opinions on everything from immigration to fashion, as well as his stock-in-trade views on fancy cars, has not commented on the online campaign, but Downing Street is apparently taking it seriously.

In the section on petitions, the prime minister's Web site explains that humorous, joke or offensive petitions will no longer be accepted and will be removed.

"Initially we accepted humorous petitions on the grounds that they did no harm and were often funny," the site says.

"However... We have decided no longer to accept petitions that are obviously intended as jokes."

Since the Clarkson petition remains, the inference is that it is regarded as serious.

Parts of the British media have rallied behind the campaign, with the conservative Daily Mail newspaper running a full page of suggested policies Clarkson should adopt if he were to suddenly find himself running the country.

The paper also revealed on Friday that Dark is a 20-year-old fan of Top Gear who has never managed to secure tickets to be in the audience for the program, one of the most popular in Britain over the past six years.

Dark was not reachable for comment.

The prime minister's Web site has attracted more than 29,000 petitions since the feature was launched, attracting nearly 6 million signatures.

The top petition at the moment, with 244,000 signatures, is "Allow the Red Arrows to fly at the 2012 Olympics" which was launched following rumors that the government might ban the aerial display team from flying.

The government has already replied to the petition saying no such proposal was ever in place but that with five years to go before the Games, no formal decision has yet been made.

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