Mary Dejevsky: The moment I turned into Gillian Duffy

Share
Related Topics

It's shaming, I know. But within minutes of arriving at the dealership to deliver the car for a routine service, I had a Gillian Duffy moment.

Every one of the staff I encountered seemed to be east European – from the officious young men checking the cars in, to the smart young women at reception, to the driver of the shuttle car, and the seemingly dozens of staff milling around not doing anything in particular. I'm judging by their accent, their appearance – and, in the case of the forecourt attendants and the shuttle driver – by their distinctly shaky command of the English language.

As Gillian Duffy put it: "All these eastern Europeans what are coming in – where are they flocking from?" Well, I know very well where they are "flocking from" – as, probably, did she. I also know that this part of west London has a very long established Polish population, so it's natural that newcomers should gravitate there to find work. "Na Ealingu" – in answer to the question "Where do you live?" – was one of the first phrases I learnt long ago on an introductory course in Polish.

My question at the car dealership was less "Where from?" or even "Why?" but what would I think if I was a local school-leaver finding it hard to get a job. Especially what might I think if I was black or brown, seeing all these fit, tall and mostly blond foreigners being paid to do something or other indefinable just over that wall? I suppose, if I was enterprising, I might venture in and ask about a job, and just maybe someone would take a chance. Or they might ask for a CV and some qualification I didn't have, and send me on my way. Or they might, and I only speculate, refer me to the agency that supplies their staff, on terms designed to match the employer's fluctuating fortunes.

But is that a good enough explanation? Why is a major car dealer recruiting dozens of young workers who were mostly not educated in Britain? The only obvious natives, generally older, are in sales and supervisory roles. And this at a time when unemployment (though not claimants) is rising, and when, acccording to the IPPR think-tank this week, there has been a 50 per cent rise in "under-employment" – those reluctantly working in temporary or part-time jobs.

EU citizens have every right to come here, to live and to work, and mobility is an excellent thing. But to deny there is an effect on the local economy, and specifically on the jobs market, seems to fly in the face of facts. That effect may be beneficial: the car dealership may be employing many more people than it would if the jobs had to be permanent and better paid (a reason why our national productivity figures are so poor). But are there no local people up to tackling such service and driving jobs? And does competence in English count for nothing? The shuttle driver took me to a much further Tube station than I had named – which has a cost to the company in time and fuel, but not one that apparently detains it. I may be wrong. Perhaps there is a shortage of willing workers in west London. But I fear that some of them have no choice but to look wistfully, perhaps angrily, over that wall.







Taking 'Enron' to the US was asking for trouble



Despite all the enthusiasm of the London critics, I regret to say I gave the stage hit, Enron, a miss. Maybe I misjudged it, but I am allergic to British actors trying – and mostly failing – to imitate an American accent. When we're supposed to be in the American South it only gets worse. For this – to some, maybe trifling – reason, most Tennessee Williams is blighted for me here. So I wasn't altogether surprised that Enron flopped so spectacularly on Broadway. More surprising, in fact, was the confidence of promoters that the play's success here would be replicated in New York, and the condescending tone of many British post-mortems, according to which the failure only confirmed Broadway's built-in hostility to truly iconoclastic theatre.

All right, so the message from Enron might be universal; but the real Enron drama was a very American tale of financial rise, over-reach and fall. In the light of what happened next, of course, it seemed globally prophetic. But that's our take. Look at it the other way round. How do you think the West End would receive MPs' Expenses, The Musical, produced in an all-American register, with everyone looking as though they had just stepped out of Primary Colours, and an overlay of simplistic American moralism? I'm not sure London critics, or theatre-goers, for that matter, would be so keen.







We have 24-hour TV news. Why not radio?



With the latest figures showing radio-listening at record levels, let me scatter a few bouquets. First, to whoever it was at BBC Radio 4 (the departing Mark Damazer, perhaps?) who had the nous to keep the Today programme on the air until 9.45am the day after the election. And to the same channel's Broadcasting House on Sunday (a programme whose confused tone and laddish approach I generally detest) for producing a nigh-serious compendium on the stalemate.

But the days of unforeseen constitutional mayhem also identified a black hole in our star-studded broadcasting firmament. We have plenty of 24 hour news television – BBC, Sky and CNN are all available on Freeview – but no radio equivalent. Nothing like, say, France Info. Television requires you to watch. And I don't know about you, but however compulsively you followed events from the close of polls on Thursday night to this Wednesday's Dave and Nick press conference, you probably had a few other things to do.

The rolling news gap was particularly glaring over the weekend, when Radio 5 stuck to every dot and comma of its sports schedule. So a third bouquet for LBC that offered Londoners news as it happened. For the licence-funded national broadcaster, on the other hand, it seemed, the progress of coalition talks had to wait.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song  

Ukip Calypso by Mike Read? The horror! The horror!

Patrick Strudwick
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past