BBC film on Fenland jobs experiment gets mixed reaction but 5 million viewers

By John Elworthy MORE than five million viewers tuned to BBC last night to see the controversial reality style TV job swop in Fenland between migrants and British workers. The Day The Migrants Left had a 21 per cent share of the TV audience, almost the s

By John Elworthy

MORE than five million viewers tuned to BBC last night to see the controversial reality style TV job swop in Fenland between migrants and British workers.

The Day The Migrants Left had a 21 per cent share of the TV audience, almost the same as the numbers watching ITV's coverage of the Champions League game between Chelsea and Inter Milan.

Reaction to the Evan Davis remains mixed; the presenter himself believes "immigration is a lot more complicated than people think.


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"It is potentially the most important issue for the UK in the last 10 years."

The programme - which featured an experiment whereby unemployed locals temporarily replaced immigrant workers- provided plenty of fodder for the TV critics.

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Lucy Managan in the Guardian felt the programme painted a less than rosy picture of British workers.

Referring to the British workers who failed to turn up, turned up late, or turned up but were not necessarily up to the job, she said: "You looked in vain for a glimmer of shame or embarrassment in any of them, but came up empty-handed".

She wrote: "You could try to tell yourself that their attitudes masked the insecurities that come with unemployment, and at times Davis bent over backwards to put a better gloss on their behaviour. But it was hard not to suspect, as you watched the infuriating dozen, stunned by the prospect of physical labour, resentful of any advice, childish and utterly unmotivated by the presence of a television crew or the knowledge that even their greatest perceived suffering would be over within 48 hours, that the natives must just be revolting".

Tom Sutcliffe in the Independent felt that "actually turning up is quite an important element in this experiment and one that not all the participants seemed to have grasped."

He also talked of the "sloth subsidy" paid by asparagus farmer Victor Aveling to top up wages of the British workers to legal minimum requirements, and he felt the English candidates were all excellent on the theory of a work ethic "less sound on the practice".

Charles Cashdan, critic for Britain's biggest selling regional paper, the Express and Star in Wolverhampton, could see the point Davis was making in his film.

He felt British people needed "rigorous training in work ethics, old fashioned values and the importance of putting work first.

"And before you all say it, I know not everyone on the dole is like this but I've been employing hundreds of staff nationally for more than four years and I can't ignore the pattern.

"As a country we have a real problem here and it's the tax payers who are funding it".

And on the Economist website today a 'blogger' felt the "interesting social experiment" of Wisbech should be compulsory viewing for Daily Mail viewers.

"To be fair, some of the workers eventually knuckled down and one of the jobs on offer, asparagus picking, was back breaking work," he wrote.

"But what was striking was not just the poor attendance but the attitude. Some basic sense of discipline was missing."

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