I never know whether to love or hate Sir Alan Sugar and the bunch of self-interested egomaniacs he has to endure during each series of The Apprentice. It’s fascinating telly, but I can’t get away from the thought that I wouldn’t want any of these aggressive, selfish nightmares working either for or with me in any context. Having met a couple of contestants in the flesh, I can see how the programme is edited for maximum ‘selfishness and conflict’ effect, but rarely does any contestant come out of it looking humane.

(In relation to the aggressive culture of the City of London in the last decade or two, someone asked yesterday: ‘What sort of people/characters thrived and succeeded in that sort of atmosphere and with those sorts of values?’ The follow-up question was: ‘And how many of these sorts of people would you want around you?’ Another question might have been: ‘Would you feel proud of your parenting skills if your child ended up like that?’)

But, the programme is so seductive, I’ll probably end up watching it out of a sense of voyeurism – or anthropological curiosity. After all, it is only entertainment for the masses, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about it today for two reasons: (a) it was reported in the press that one contestant has already dropped out – apparently he didn’t want to be away from his family for up to 12 weeks; he should be hired immediately for having a mature set of priorities; and (b) because I am preparing to co-speak (don’t ask…) at Spring Harvest at Minehead and the overall theme this year is ‘The Apprentice’. So, have a look at this picture:


I guess when most people picture in their minds the disciples of Jesus, they don’t come up with the odds and sods painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Somehow we have sanistised the disciples/apprentices of Jesus and made them into scandalgrace1couth pale-skinned western scholars. Part of the problem is that as soon as we put them in a stained-glass window with a plate behind their head and call them ‘St’, we distance them from the real humanity we experience. Yet, as I tried to explain in my book Scandal of Grace (originally titled Jesus and People Like Us), the disciples were messy, inconsistent, often a bit thick and frequently in conflict with one another.

I like the picture because it depicts the disciples with character and humanises them. I still don’t see Sir Alan Sugar as Jesus (and you can quote me on that), but I guess his ‘contestants’ are as odd and annoyingly human as those of the Messiah. Interestingly, however, Jesus tried to get his friends to stop being ‘contestant’s and become ‘cooperators’.