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Nick 'n' Marge: A New Low For Auntie

This is the message: no matter how crap one must do some work. No matter how much disarray society is in, just ‘et yer head down’ and do your bit: lie back and think of England. But things are falling apart! Is this how to address them? If so can you honestly tell me that it’s working?

Work should only be done if it is necessary. That would eliminate pointless busywork (like call centres dedicated to ‘saving Britain money’) and give people more time for their lives. Instead we have people that only see their families for nine hours a week extolling the virtues of this nebulous concept that seems merely synonymous with exploitation.

Work should only be done if it is necessary. I don’t spend my time polishing the dishes I clean the plates when they need to be cleaned. Once that’s done I don’t give it a second thought. While I’m doing it I do it as best I can and as efficiently as I can, but it is not something that consumes my time. Nor should it be. That is not what I was put on this earth for.

This programme is merely advocating economic serfdom. The only thing it is empowering is emasculation you have no choice in your life. It infantilises people and yet at the same time as it treats them as victims it talks up the supposed virtues of work. Qualities such as self respect and self reliance. But people are not self reliant, they merely exchange one master for another. People are taught to resent the unemployed for a variety of reasons, but the main one seems to be that they envy not having a boss, and so they want the ‘taxpayer’ to be that boss. They want to have a direct say in how much money the unemployed, even the disabled, receive and how they can spend it – even if that means restricting its flow back into the economy.

If we want to be truly socially responsible citizens, and I take that to mean doing what we can to make life better for subsequent generations, we need to reject the systems that don’t work. That is the purpose of science, philosophy as well as art and culture. Instead we observe our society as a patchwork of shabby short term principles overseen by selfish and hypocritical administrators and viewed through a squalid lens. That is my perfect description of Nick and Marge’s televisual outing and their, frankly scripted, narrative pieces. Are we to live our lives wedded to economic turbulence, blown by winds powered by forces beyond us? It seems we are to make a virtue of this. That we have to tolerate this, to tolerate greed and corruption. Some people think this is god testing us and that if we work hard now, if we don’t resist and just get on with it, like good little soldiers, then we are rewarded later, in heaven or in our sixties (or later). If we make it that far!

The programme’s nadir sees Stevie ask the patient, while Liam is right there, if she thinks that Liam is lazy. The patient, who is quite infirm, of course reinforces Stevie’s belief that Liam should be prepared to take any job (thereby wasting the money spent getting a degree – not that the university loses out). So of course Liam is stood there feeling two inches tall and looking utterly sheepish – what can he say? He’s hardly in a position to say ‘I don’t agree, you’re wrong! Fuck you!’ (Ok maybe not that aggressively.)

Sticking Liam in a situation where the patient he has to care for (a job he isn’t trained for and wasn’t looking to do) and then having Stevie ask her if he should be prepared to take any job is low. As if he can turn around and tell her, a disabled woman he hardly knows, that he disagrees.

But it gets worse when he (according to the BBC’s script) chooses to bow out of his next shift. Of course Stevie is mortally offended – as if she’s actually his boss and this actually is his job, which it isn’t. He’s let her down, he’s let them down, but most of all – groan! – he’s let himself down! It doesn’t get much more trite than that. Perhaps he just, gasp, isn’t cut out for carework. Don’t get me wrong; I respect Stevie for what she does; care work is a hard job for a pittance in many cases. That sad fact informs a lot of her prejudice. I believe that if she enjoyed what she did and was amply compensated for her time the Liams of the world wouldn’t even show up on her radar.

However instead we see her having to arrange cover at short notice. She now has to explain, apparently, to the clients Liam was helping her with, that Liam won’t be attending. This is disgraceful manipulation. Why do the clients need to be involved? Why cause them potential upset? These are seriously ill/infirm people. surely that is the consequence of being told your carer is being mucked around by her colleague. Naturally, and predictably, they are upset – angry, in once case. This is emotional blackmail of the worst kind, on the part of the BBC, to say nothing of the intrusion of filming all this into their lives, though presumably they consented. I certainly wouldn’t have! There is no movement to address the ridiculous hours carers have to face - including and perhaps especially unpaid carers and the risible amount they receive from the government (which they should be thankful for getting away with!).

Meanwhile Debbie has a quick moan about Kelly coping with work she doesn't find difficult. To her difficult work, as a cleaner, is scraping ovens clean. Fair enough. But what does this achieve? What is the point of her attitude? I couldn't work with her as a boss: judgemental, patronising and overbearing. Kelly, rightly or wrongly, is being set up to fail. So she can't cope with what might seem easy chores (I've done cleaning, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't easy), because she's 'had it easy on benefits' (that's the charge you see). So what conclusion are we drawing from this? Is this promoting workfare by the backdoor? I doubt she's lazy: she has kids and a house to run (and clean). That doesn't take care of itself.

This whole programme is wretched: whether it’s framing Liam, who may or may not be lazy (I frankly don’t care), in so negative a way, whether it’s Debbie patronising Kelly ‘ooh you missed a spot, whether it’s Luther cheerfully walking toward a potential pothole by appearing on this programme working (while claiming ESA), or whether it’s Chris and his 50-80 job applications a day so desperate to be part of this house of cards he’ll do anything but financially can’t. The world of work is presented through the narrowest range of jobs at the lowest end of the spectrum (as perceived in populist terms) possible: cleaning, plumbing, warehouse work, care work. That’s it, and if these scroungers dare to struggle with being thrown in a the deep end – no matter how they feel or how hard they try – they are to be mocked and belittled; witness Debbie criticising the folding of a bed and her assumption that Kelly was responsible for the slip in standards (it was actually her regular employer with whom Kelly was working). There is no discussion of support, training, opportunities, and careers. This is work, and you must do it to pay to prop up a system dying on its arse.

Everything was orchestrated to fit a narrative: the lazy student, the beleaguered but genuine family man, the bad back malingerer, the fat single mother. Who knows if the situation would have been different had they not even found completely different jobs – better jobs (in their eyes), but switched the partners around. Perhaps then Liam wouldn’t have been made to feel two inches tall while working with Stevie who obviously has a chip on her shoulder (to say nothing of her husband who…if looks could kill in response to Liam’s observation of her family life!). Perhaps then Debbie would have had to come up with different prejudices, etc.

These people have been thrown in right at the deep end and asked to work exactly to the standard of their taxpayer mentors. What was that ever to achieve? So people struggle. I don’t get how that is ever supposed to be a positive experience. Yet, as with all this kind of programming, people are put into a spin through a completely different experience of some kind and then the resultant cognitive disarray makes them think differently and that’s a success! But it’s just superficial. It’s not representative of anything: Chris says he’s had a taste of the working world and he likes it, but we knew he wanted to work. Yet how’s he going to cope 6 months from now if he finds a job and it’s a zero hours contract, or it’s temporary and his benefits get fucked up? Nick keeps asking ‘what if you had to take a job on lower wage than you currently receive through benefits?’ Well then he’d be homeless! Mission complete, BBC.
The capitalist system is dying. We are living in its death throes; certainly I hope that is the case. All of this division is the symptoms thereof. We are like ants scrabbling around a collapsing anthill; rearranging the proverbial deckchairs on the Titanic.

We need a different system. We don’t need prejudiced programming like this. People need help and support not to be bashed around the head with trite aphorisms and clichés about the world of work. I don’t care if work made you the man you are Mr Nick Hewer, you’re not the one scrubbing toilets 10 hours a day.But we daren't let unemployed people see anything other than desperation and struggle; they cannot be allowed to derive self worth from the pure fact of living of being a worthy being just because, not through someone else's narrow definition of 'work'. The unemployed must be kept miserable to be dependent on a system that needs them to keep everyone else in line. Meanwhile the master's dine on the division they sow; such fine vintage are the tears of a divided society.

Nick ‘n’ Marge went to find out about the reality of job prospects. To do this they asked one person who pointed out there is up to 45 people applying for every vacancy. Of course the programme does nothing to expose the blatant fraud that is the Universal Jobmatch system. They asked if Chris, having done a day’s work assisting a plumber, could retrain. But, and ignoring the reality of dealing with JSA and the nightmare that is JC+ (again not the subject of the show), that would, at best, mean there’s one more plumber in the neighbourhood. That’s bad news for everyone! It’s just more competition when there’s less money for people that might need a plumber to spare on such work (unless necessary I suppose). Chris’s existence as a plumber, were he to train, would not increase the demand for his services.

Meanwhile Debbie's delusions of grandeur threaten to plague the rest of Kelly's days: "lucky for her she's met me!"

Suddenly Kelly is now participaing in some bizarre makeover show. Nick asks if she'll 'slide' back to her old self if Debbie withdraws. What the fuck? She's only known her five minutes and hasn't changed at all. That is to say her old self and her 'new' self are no different. What the hell is going on?

And finally: for the BBC to use the elderly and the infirm, as it did during this show, leaves me cold. This really is a new low for this organisation. Not just peddling state and pro capitalist propaganda, but using this sector of the community; manipulating them into fighting your battles? That is a fucking disgrace! I wasn't going to watch this show again, but I'm somewhat glad I have; just to see this kind of behaviour. Appalling.


  1. Fair comments made. This programme was total manipulation to make people think people on benefits have it easy and that they too should be working like dogs like stevie etc.

    1. This programme, more than the last, is pure manipulation. In fact I think it is scripted. The interludes with Nick and Margaret having their discussions, between meeting the participants, sounded so artificial it must have been scripted.

      The central premise seems to be to deny people beneift - and therefore support - as much as possible. It's like the WCA: any excuse to stop someone receiving support. Why not just make a programme called 'Destroy the Welfare state' and argue for completely removal of benefits. The whole time the claimants were repeatedly asked, if not told, that there's no reason for them getting benefits, even if it meant working for a comparably lower wage. Even Chris had to say more than once that doing so would jeopardise his rent.

      This simple fact is lost on this programme: that benefit rates are indeed the equivalent of a week's NMW. But they aren't; £70 a week isn't even half the NMW. So people are not better off out of work unless they have complicated situations, such as rent for a suitable sized house or child support - even then Chris and his wife received a food parcel once a week!

      Again and again benefits are misrepresented and then the case is made that anyone can do anything and that there are loads of jobs available and people should jump at the opportunity to work 12 hours for the likes od Debbie a day cleaning.

      But hang on, Kelly was cleaning offices - that's not a 12 hour a day job! That's a 2 hour a day job. What was really happening there? I suspect Debbie dragged Kelly around with her for a day and made her work in every venue she has a contract with. But that's not what she does; as business owner all she'd do is check to see how things are going, perhaps bring some new supplies, and manage the books. Somethign fishy there.

  2. I tuned in to this 2nd part of Mountford & Grim and managed to watch about 2 minutes of Debbie the hate filled cleaning boss telling the camera how Kelly wasn't coping and she hadn't given her hard cleaning to do like cleaning ovens. Debbie came across as searching hard for reasons to berate Kelly. In the eyes of micromanaging bullies like Debbie who have a massive chip on their shoulder, no one is as virtuous as they, yet they seek every opportunity to hammer and abuse those who are simply different.

    I switched off. My sanity nor blood pressure couldn't take another moment of watching aggressive bigots attack those who don't fit with their narrow ideals of what constitute a person deserving of respect.

    1. I wasn't going to watch it, but felt I should. Like cuddling a Tarantula to get over arachnophobia.

      Debbie is just ridiculous. I bet she has a website where she bigs herself up as some kind of self styled guru-entrrepreneur. She fancies herself a seat with the Dragons on DD.

      Such a ridiculous and limited worldview from a docudrama that, if real, made no effort to address even the most obvious of core issues.


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