Rowan Pelling: Bless this Badger, red in tooth and claw

Dainty blonde or hulking ball-breaker - who will win the final showdown in 'The Apprentice'?

Share

Are you team Badger, or team Blonde? If you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about and actually heeded Why Don't You's advice to "switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead" in the 1970s, then I'd stop reading now; none of the following will bear any relevance to a fascinating life spent making wireless sets out of Scalextric and an old toaster.

The rest of the nation (especially the feral schoolchildren with a plasma screen where some of us might have a window) have only one topic on our minds. Well, two or three - we're also quite preoccupied with whether David Tennant will tone down the super-arch facial tics and snog Billie Piper when she's not possessed by an invasive life form, and when we're not thinking about that, we're guiltily suppressing the heretical thought that My Name is Earl is a wee bit funnier than the second series of Green Wing (even if it doesn't star the lickable Julian Rhind-Tutt).

But, after the weekend, we'll be gearing up for the big one: the final showdown of BBC2's The Apprentice. And - thank you God - what an all-girl, pasta-wrestling bitch-fight it's become.

In the blue corner is lightweight ice-maiden Michelle Dewberry. The impenetrable, blonde 26-year-old telecoms consultant with the whiny voice has been resolutely average in every task demanded of her, but has an enviable talent for eliciting male sympathy and keeping her nose clean. Like last year's winner, the super-nice but underwhelming Tim, Michelle's place in the final is due to a sympathy vote on the grounds of her underprivileged background.

In the red corner is Ruth "bruiser" Badger, the heavyweight 27-year-old sales manager with all the mercy, restraint and humility of Boudicca leading the Iceni. Setting "the Badger" on a task is like watching Saruman unleash a legion of orcs . In one assignment for a letting agency she rented out five flats; her team mates managed a total of zero. Like all the great sagas, this is an epic clash between the bland, goody-two-shoes forces of the light (or, in Michelle's case, the taupe) and the amoral, manipulative, yet charismatic, forces of the dark. It's Melanie Hamilton versus Scarlett O'Hara; Jennifer Aniston versus Angelina Jolie. Where you align yourself depends, it seems to me, on one thing: is the most empathetic part of your soul with the victim - or with the predator? Unless you're a man, of course, when it's all about whether the most empathetic part of your anatomy prefers dainty blonde or hulking ball-breaker. But we all know which they'd respect more in the morning - or in the boardroom.

Either way, you can bet your life's savings that the greatest body of support favours Michelle Dewberry. This is because all too many women still espouse a punitive version of the Cinderella story - the one illustrated by all the workhouse orphans and crippled ballet students in Mandy mag through to Princess Diana and poor old Teri Hatcher.

In this narrative, a heroine goes from abuse and deprivation (emotional, physical or financial) to stardom and riches, but only at the price of vulnerability - and a ruinous love life. Why else do six times as many women buy "team Aniston" T-shirts as "team Jolie" ones? Why are so many women addicted to the saga of Liz Jones' marital diary? Her readers don't resent her wealth, her designer wardrobe - because her husband's a cheating, bragging, unkind slob.

Men (particularly unattractive ones) who are nervous with beautiful, powerful women, often adopt the same attitude. The most beautiful and clever of all contestants in this series, Edinburgh lawyer Karen Bremner, appeared to have blagged all the gifts from the good fairies. She came from a comfortable background, was professionally impressive and happy in her own skin, so Sir Alan Sugar punished her with an utterly inexplicable early sacking.

So we shouldn't be surprised that we were told about 10 times in last Wednesday's programme that high-earning Michelle came from a tough background and first worked as a check-out girl. Conversely, the Badger's monolithic quality suggests she sprang from the womb teeth bared, fully-formed and invulnerable. Both finalists are working-class lasses from two of Britain's dreariest cities north of Watford, who can claim only a clutch of GCSEs between them, but the Badger has made the potentially fatal error of not admitting to feminine frailty.

Yes, I admit it, I am partisan - I want the Badger to win. I love, love, love it when she flushes red and shows her incisors. She's the only woman in this series to tackle the men head-on and come away triumphant. She's the only female to whom every male contestant has tremblingly attributed the word "respect". She's been wrongly traduced for "snitching" and "bitching", when she's just returned fire with fire in the most gloriously unfeminine manner.

And I don't buy this nonsense that Michelle's "nicer" than our Badge. She's a classic example of the pent-up, passive-aggressive Hitchcock blonde, who'll be seducing you up until the second the knife sinks into your back. At least with the Badger you know the beast you're getting. In short, she's the only person who could sell Amstrads to Sir Alan - or anyone, come to that.

But, sadly, I can't see her winning unless she takes a lesson from another indomitable woman, Hillary Clinton, and is persuaded to have one stage-managed moment of public humiliation. And who would wish that on such a noble creature? Even so, she is assured her place in the nation's heart. Like beloved British battle-axes Hattie Jacques and Ann Widdecombe, Ruth Badger has the potential to be a national treasure. In years to come I predict mothers will tell naughty children: "Be good, or the Badger will get you!"

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Cloud Support Engineer

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a team player who likes...

Recruitment Genius: Skilled Machinist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled machini...

Recruitment Genius: Toolmaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled toolmak...

Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; up to £55k

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Sting may be in for a shock when he tries to save his Broadway musical

David Lister
 

David Cameron’s immigration speech: I broke my promise; this time will be different

John Rentoul
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game