Last Night’s TV – The Day the Immigrants Left

by Lynn Connolly

This film, though without doubt an interesting one, was a flawed experiment from the get-go, but that excuse didn’t do much to improve my flagging nationalism by the end of the film.

The premise of Evan Davies’s film and experiment was to find out if there is in fact any merit in those moans that are a national pastime about immigrants taking ‘our’ jobs.

So, using Wisbech in Cambridgeshire as his Petri dish – there are around 3,000 immigrants and a similar number of born-and-bred Brits who’re unemployed – he persuaded various employers to give their immigrant workers the day off and threw down the gauntlet to a bunch of unemployed folks to come and prove they could do the jobs equally as well…

However – but please note, I’m not making excuses for the many work-shy people we met last night – there are caveat variables that weren’t taken into account or made mitigating factors for the seemingly overwhelming failure of the British candidates to do well.

First of all, few people do well in a job in their first few days, and secondly, perhaps the subjects who ended up not turning up were put off more by the thought of having a camera record a calamitous first day. Or perhaps those are just excuses…

Clearly some of those who featured last night were not only bigots, they were bone idle too, and pretty uniformly useless. In addition, several had chips on their shoulders that could’ve done with knocking off.

Take for instance Terry who’d proclaimed that he felt like “a foreigner in my own country.” He was offered the role of replacing one immigrant worker at a potato packing factory and turned up late on his first day. And he didn’t appreciate being pulled up about it either.

Paul was, like Terry, late for the first day and didn’t like having to take instruction from an East European man called Yuri. “Well, that’s bugging me already” he moaned, and decided he’d express his racism by refusing to call the man by his name and giving him the moniker of Bill instead.

However, even these unsavoury moaners were an improvement upon Lewis who didn’t turn up at all. He sent a text message to his would-be-if-he’d-turned-up boss to say he wasn’t well.

It seems there was something going round that day because two more candidates, Sam and Nicola failed to show up at an Indian restaurant too. Similarly, a bloke called Dave couldn’t go to his new job because his girlfriend was ill.

Meanwhile, back with Terry and Paul, they were set the challenge of counting; not difficult I hear you cry… well apparently, you’d be wrong. When asked what had caused the error, Paul whined, “We all have days when we can’t count.”

I have them for sure. Some days, adding 2 + 2 just isn’t happening. Usually a Wednesday I find…

And during all that, the temporary British workers on an asparagus farm were told they’d be paid in accordance with the weight of the results of their day’s labour – X pence per kilo, I forget the actual amount. And while their immigrant colleagues could earn over £150 a day in this way, the British workers didn’t pick enough to clear minimum wage so the farm owner – begrudgingly and who can blame him – had to top up their wages for the day.

Overall, though Terry and Paul eventually made a half decent job of it, and one chap – a carpenter – even managed to be offered more work, this film made me feel ashamed of my fellow countrymen. Or at least, those of the work-shy, belligerent variety.

However, Davies surmised his experiment on a quasi-positive note – that was perhaps more wishful thinking than anything proven by his film – by saying, “We should never let the new arrivals tempt us into writing off the people we’ve got.”

The trouble is Evan, the “people we’ve got” judging by your film are, in the main, lazy, feckless and believe the world owes them a living. Little wonder then that immigrants with a good work ethic are chosen over some British candidates for whom ‘work’ is a four-letter word.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.