Britain Today

On Clearing Your Own Toast Plate

Perhaps Allison Pearson was back on the booze when she approved of the decision by the Camerons and Cambridges and others to hire a non-British nanny.

Her position stems from a less than optimal experience with a British-born nanny called Hayley; one which was distressing to such a degree that became reluctant to hire British employees.

For instance, Hayley was prepared to clear the children’s breakfast things and load them into the dishwasher, but she refused to pick up so much as a toast plate used by Himself or me.

My assumption – and that of many commentators – was that Hayley was reluctant to act as a house maid instead of the position she presumably was hired for. Pearson further laments:

One morning, I got up early to make a meat sauce and I asked Hayley if she could possibly put on a potato topping so the whole family could have it for dinner.
Eight hours later, I got home to find that half of the meat sauce – the children’s half – had been covered with mash. The other half was just as I had left it, which gave the dish an oddly experimental look. It was all pie and no cottage.

Speaking for myself, this looks like an act of petty defiance towards fully-grown adults who could not bring themselves to pick-up a toast plate. When I was sharing and had flatmates who did not do a stroke of housework (up to and including boiling pasta in a frying pan instead of cleaning a pot), I purposefully stacked dishes so to be able to use work-surfaces myself, but would not load them in the dishwasher.

A detailed exposition as to why fewer and fewer British born women are willing to enter domestic service is beyond my ken. I do not doubt, however, that raised expectations is part of the reason. Pearson, by her own admission, hails from a background “where people tended to work as domestic help rather than employing it” so displays just such an attitudinal shift.

Her own rationalization manages to dismiss both such an expectation in other British women and reduce her preferred foreign workforce to ill-educated chattels:

A better education system is another reason parents I know of William and Kate’s age are favouring Latvian, Lithuanian, Turkish or Spanish nannies to take care of their princes and princesses.

The other gripe I have with the theme of “immigrants work harder than home-grown candidates” is the implicit sampling bias. The former are taken from a much smaller and more uniform cohort who have shown the nous/gumption/smeddum to move abroad in search of work: had Pearson recruited directly from a Vilnius dive or Ankara jobcentre, she might have found a somewhat different work ethic.

Pearson describes Hayley as “the Bob Crow of nannies”, and means it as a negative criticism. Whatever I have said about Crow in the past, this article demonstrates the continued need for those like him who represent their members desires and nothing else.