Grace Dent on TV: Nick and Margaret: Immigration Gain or Drain transpired to be rather illuminating television

One thing the Brits all shared was utter conviction about their specific anti-immigration bugbear

At some level we always knew Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford were a wasted resource. So much time frittered chasing besuited berks around Brick Lane on The Apprentice, monitoring the manner in which they sell plums.

Or perched either side of Alan Sugar in full disgruntled Nookie Bear mode as he ripped into some Lidl Gordon Gekko. We always suspected the real brains of the show were Nick and Margaret.

Nick’s wholly measured inward seething at the fecklessness of mankind, paired with Margaret’s steely can-do panache make a comforting vision of Britain being Great. They remind me of a recent interview with Michael Gove’s former adviser Dominic Cummings where he spoke of the fallacy we all share that somewhere, at a higher level, brilliantly minded figures are actually running the country.

“Everyone thinks,” he said, “there’s some moment, like in a James Bond movie, where you open the door and that’s where the really good people are. But there is no door.” The idea that there’s “no door” is too upsetting for the average psyche, including mine, to cope with. I’m happy to carry on being soothed by the concept of people like Nick and Margaret rolling up their sleeves and having erudite thoughts on immigration, global pandemics and the potential threat of Isis. Or at the very least, they could ask some tough questions and discuss their findings moodily in the back of a moving taxi.

This was the main thrust of Tuesday’s show, in which the duo tackled negative ideas about immigration by pairing Brits with French, Filipino and Polish partners, then sending them away to investigate how much of a “drain” on society the influx actually was. It sounded gimmicky and hollow, but transpired to be rather wonderful, illuminating television.

One thing the Brits all shared was utter conviction about their specific anti-immigration bugbear. Jamie, a young builder, was certain that he was still sharing a cramped flat with his father – when he wished to live with his girlfriend – because immigrants undercut his work rate. Jamie was sent to meet Mariusz from Poland who’d moved to Britain 10 years ago, then worked relentlessly for minimum wage, before setting up his own bespoke furniture company and renting a one-bedroom flat with his wife and their baby.

Nick & Margaret: Too Many Immigrants? Nick & Margaret: Too Many Immigrants? Jamie, left, and Mariusz The subject is tricky. Jamie seemed wholly browbeaten by his lack of freedom. Yet it was unclear why he and his pretty, articulate girlfriend didn’t flee the flat and rent a small shared room anywhere away from his dad. This would be exactly the option the immigrants were taking, who Jamie had decided “live cramped-in, in ghettos, in bad areas”.

Mariusz, in fact, rented in the elegant postcode of Fulham, SW6. It was a small flat with a pull-out sofa-bed but one got the feeling that this was the result of 10 years of hard work. Jamie was  surprised, congratulatory even, that Mariusz’s wife paid tax on her wages from cleaning part-time, but furious that Mariusz employed three Polish people to make furniture, which was taking British jobs.

Mariusz argued he had a perfect right to choose people he knew were capable of doing the difficult job. One was left feeling that, yes, Mariusz could try harder to find British craftsmen and, yes, Jamie could stop arguing that it wasn’t worth him “being spoken to like a piece of crap” on building sites for less money than he wanted, but it was difficult to feel hostile towards Mariusz for making a success of London.

Maryline, a cheerful young waitress from Paris with a stoic needs-must attitude to life, shared a house with 18 other catering staff. It was eerily tidy for a commune of this proportion, but as she explained, “everyone is always at work”.

Maryline was matched with Michael from Romford, a young man who seemed to have tons of personal space – a flat paid for by housing benefit – and all the time in the world to enjoy it as he had no job. He was adamant no jobs were available.

Maryline said she found a job in a tea-room the moment she arrived. It was a curious spectacle, with Maryline explaining that sometimes it is  better to walk into places and ask about work opportunities than send emails, or that in France she worked in a luxury shoe shop but here she decided to do anything, and that she shared one room with a friend and they only had one wardrobe between them. Michael was bemused.

Elsewhere, Romme, a Filipino care-worker who had been recruited to work in the country, was informed by his British “partner” John that foreigners lacked the caring touch.

“You don’t want to do these jobs,” he replied, remarkably politely, keeping in mind the man spent his days nursing sufferers with severe epilepsy, “you don’t like blood and you don’t like wiping bums”. The wiping-bum remark hung in the air awkwardly.

It had been a wholly serene chat until that point, but here was the nitty-gritty. The one thing we learned for sure from this hour was that Nick and Margaret had no real idea what to think about any of it. If they really are the clever people “behind the door” with all the solutions about Britain, they may need to stay in the think-tank a little longer.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam