Just desserts. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice
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"There’s nothing about today that I would change": The Apprentice blog series 10, episode 10

The candidates shovel saffron into some trifle.

WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!

Read the episode 9 blog here.


That’s it. The links between Lord Sugar’s chosen locations and the task at hand have plummeted 110 per cent from tenuous to non-existent. Opening this episode, candidates gather solemnly on the Tate Britain’s mighty spiral staircase to be told they have to make “premium puddings”. Does the Grand High Grouch not know that there’s more to this central London art gallery than the overpriced carrot cake in the members’ café?

Anyway, if it has no other value whatsoever, it’s at least a chance for The Apprentice’s perpetually bored voiceover to say things like “just desserts” and “recipe for disaster” with one eye on the application form for Disembodied Voice on next year’s Great British Bake Off.

First, the long-awaited reshuffle. Daniel clenches his way over to Team Summit, and Sanjay bounces along to Team Tenacity, finally splitting up the unholy alliance of boorish bulldozers Daniel and Mark. Roisin leads the former because she’s got big business dreams about ready meals, and Katie becomes project manager for the latter because she wants to open a restaurant that serves healthy food in Sunderland. Dream big.

Supermarketeers. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

“I just want to raise the fact that I don’t drink tea,” is the mea-culpa-non-sequitur from Solomon that means he will be allowed to design Summit’s packaging for its uniquely infused cheesecakes. This leaves Bianca and Daniel to go to a tea-tasting session in Soho, where the latter looks like he's slurping down a glass of wasps when the instructor invites them to, “let the tea roll across all the areas of your palate”.

“That doesn’t resemble tea to me,” he says, shell-shocked. “I’m obviously very uneducated – in the world of tea.”

On the other team, Sanjay and Mark are brainstorming names for their product, which is some sort of ostensibly posh trifle. “Fancy-Full?” chirps Sanjay. “A Trifle Nice?” After frowning in silence, Mark suggests, chillingly, “Sweet Pleasure?”

Eventually, they go for “A Trifle Different”; Sanjay excitedly phones his teammates and informs them of the happy news: “Trifle is also a word for ‘a little bit’”. Also, the trifle has fistfuls of saffron in it.

The premium packaging of this product is a gingham sleeve with words written on it in what looks suspiciously like Curlz MT. “We absolutely smashed it,” booms Mark, high-fiving Sanjay, who chirps, “there’s nothing about today that I would change”. All this enthusiasm, positivity and pride should hint to even the most “obviously very uneducated” viewer at what fate the boardroom will bring for Team Tenacity.

Sipping on some saffron. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Roisin’s team call their product “Tea Pot”, and are also very pleased with themselves. The goodwill doesn’t last, however, as Roisin outrages Daniel by choosing Bianca to pitch the product with her to three different retailers. “I didn’t realise when I joined this team, Roisin’s actually in love with Bianca, by the way,” he fumes, as the two women embark upon their rollercoaster of romantic trysts: standing in a succession of stuffy meeting rooms with contemptuous retail executives.

When the men eventually turn up to a pitch to Waitrose, Roisin insists they shouldn’t interrupt. So five minutes in, Daniel helps out by calling into question the entire concept of being a tea-drinker:

“I'm not a big tea drinker, if you like, but it really did smack me round the face with the idea of having green tea and these kinds of flavours. I'm not even a tea enthusiast, but yet I really did buy into the concept of having these tea cheesecakes.”

Why does no one on this programme drink tea? Isn’t this the most telling sign to Lord Sugar that they would make terrible colleagues? Always smugly filling up for themselves at the water cooler, never burning their knuckles on the return from a five-mug, two-handed tea round.

Pitching goes even worse for the other team, as Mark croaks and grunts his way through a performance for which he’s spent the whole episode preparing. He managed to convince Katie to let him do it, because “do you go to the racetrack and leave your prize stallion in the shed? No.”

Half-baked. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Yet in spite of his catastrophic bout of dry-mouth, it’s not quite time for Mark to face the knacker’s yard. Although his team loses, he is somehow saved. Instead, Katie gets dropped.

Sugar’s objection to her is that she wants to start a restaurant business with him, but can’t possibly know about food because she put too much saffron in a trifle. She protests that she has worked back- and front-of-house in a restaurant since the age of 15. “I’ve been to McDonald’s also, but I wouldn’t claim to understand the infrastructure there,” is Sugar’s reply, who presumably also doesn’t claim to understand the difference between serving and being served in a restaurant.

Sanjay is next to go, because although he’s a banker his ambition is to build an online community to do with fitness. Well, let me tell you something, Sanjay. I’ve been to LA Fitness also, but I wouldn’t claim to understand the internet.

The proof is in the pudding. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

 

Candidates to watch

Mark

When he compared himself to a horse, it sounded dangerously close to Stuart “I'm not a one-trick pony; I have a whole field of ponies” Baggs of Series 6. Who was fired.

Solomon

I think he might just be the work experience boy.

Roisin and Bianca

Will they, won’t they?


I'll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here to follow it. Read my blog on the previous episode here. The show will air weekly on Wednesday evenings at 9pm on BBC One. Check back for the next instalments every Thursday morning.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump