Thursday, 25 February 2010

What's wrong with the British?

Last night I watched the BBC's 'The Day the Immigrants Left'. If you didn't see it, I fully recommend a trip to the BBC iplayer (making the unmissable, unmissable) and an hour of your time to reflect on the current state of the British population. The words; slovenly, chippy, ignorant and ill-tempered come to mind.

I'll give you a short synopsis. Evan Davis (of Dragons' Den fame) travels to Wisbech, a Cambridgeshire town that has seen a huge influx of immigrant workers since the extension of the EU in 2004. There is a general consensus in the town that the immigrants have stolen jobs from the locals, are draining resources and giving little back to the community. An experiment to test an alternative theory, that the average Briton is too lazy and work shy to perform the unskilled jobs that the immigrants fill, is performed. Foreign asparagus pickers, potato packers, restaurant workers and builders are laid off for two days so that twelve unemployed locals can fill their places and prove their worth.

What an embarrassment. Of the initial twelve, four did not turn up for work on day one. Not a great start for the Brits. Of the remaining eight, two turned up half an hour late and one gave up halfway through. A couple of them (once they had finished whinging) did reasonably well, but overall it wasn't a pretty picture. On the other hand the immigrants we saw excelled themselves. They were polite, smiling, cheerful, helpful and hard working.

It's not just Wisbech. This week a patient came to see me for help with weight loss. She was a new patient in the practice and until now had been taking the weight reduction aid, Reductil (Sibutramine). This has now lost it's license in the UK and so I informed her that I could no longer prescribe it. She had tried all the other medications available and nothing had helped. She looked at me moodily and remarked; "I suppose I'll have to try exercising."

What have we become? We'd rather pop a pill than have to exercise, collect dole money than work and blame anyone but ourselves for our misfortunes. I know it's not easy to lose weight, and I know the job market is horribly tough at the moment, but is a bit of effort too much to ask?

The real highlight in this horrifying program was Ali, an Indian restaurant owner, with his new British staff. Well, the one that actually turned up. Ashley, aged 19, was trying his hand at being a waiter. He was struggling. To be fair he seemed like a nice enough guy and he did give it a decent go, but it was too much for him. He gave up halfway through the lunchtime service. Ali, with a warm smile, insisted that Ashley should have something to eat before he left and sat him down for lunch, on the house.

Earlier on Ali had described himself as British, having lived here for most of his life. On the basis of this program, he is far too good a guy to call himself that.


  1. Do you think benefits should be reduced? I think I'm correct in saying that you get £4O to live on a week after bills, rent etc have been paid for.

  2. You get £64.30 plus an allowance for rent which may or may not cover your actual rent, plus your council tax paid.

    That's not a lot when you consider how high water and fuel bills are these days.

    It all goes pear-shaped when you need some new shoes or a new winter coat. You can get loans from the DWP for some things but on £64.30 a week, paying back at the rate of, say, £9/week can be difficult. If you're lucky, you can negotiate lower repayments.

    Add to that the fact that a lot of the people on JSA aren't much good at maths or planning or cooking cheaply and you've a recipe for deep debt.

    I think a lot of families cope by spending less on their children than they should and using the money for luxuries instead. I know one family that had a television and stereo but the children were short of clothes and toys.