THE BLOG
18/02/2015 05:36 GMT | Updated 19/04/2015 06:59 BST

'The Romanians Are Coming': Gypsy Wrath or Gypsy Froth?

The election campaign may not officially start until March 30, but Ukip are definitely first off the blocks with a quite staggering party political broadcast.

It doesn't feature their leader in person. In fact, he only has one mention and that's in passing. His absence on camera is no bad thing. Forget about a sheen of respectability, his face always seems to be glistening with a thin layer of sweat. (Nerves or booze? You decide). Check out old clips of Richard Nixon. By comparison to Farage, he looks like an ad for Right Guard.

On first viewing, it wasn't initially clear who had paid for the production, let alone the airtime. But since it lasted for an entire hour, those in question had plainly got very deep pockets. The name that immediately sprung to mind as having funded it was Rupert Murdoch, further giving his seal of approval to Nige.

As it turned out of course, the world's best connected octogenarian billionaire wasn't in any way responsible. It was instead none other than Channel 4 who had forked out for this apparent piece of propaganda on behalf of the very same organisation they were publicly lambasting 24 short hours earlier. And Harold Wilson thought a week was a long time in politics.

The Romanians are Coming more than made amends for the previous evening's perceived Ukip bashing. All is now undoubtedly forgiven. The Commissioning Editor can expect a thank-you keg of real ale, 200 Rothmans and a case of pork scratchings turning up at Horseferry Road any day now.

The whole thing started off like a Romanian equivalent of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. A horse and cart trundled into view across a post-apocalyptic looking street, a bare chested child played with a pickaxe and a man sniffed a bag of paint stripper. You started to wonder whether it was all a gigantic spoof. Hold on a minute wasn't that actor in a recent episode of Casualty?

Regrettably, it was all too real. Narrated by Romanian gypsy, Alex Fechete Petru, we were introduced to the characters on their way to the UK with hope in their hearts and a belief that God would provide for them. One of their wives said: "I'm sure the English will throw us a rope". Yes, love, presumably to hang themselves with when things got especially glum.

Alex (a different one) and Stefan were heading for London. While the middle-aged Sandu who even before he left was already missing his nearest and dearest, not to mention a large number of his teeth, was on his way to Liverpool accompanied by his eldest son and a friend. I'm not sure what dental heath is like in Romania, but if Tom Cruise ever finds himself shooting a movie there he might want to wait till he gets back to Hollywood if in the unfortunate event one of his crowns or veneers comes loose. Personally, I'll be sticking with my guy in Harley Street.

Once in Britain, those wishing for a better existence and a chance to bring their relatives over to join them had little to smile about. We saw Alex and Stefan outside Victoria coach station where they invited us up to see their new home. This turned out to be a multi-storey car park, where they slept on the second floor under an electricity box that at least afforded them sockets into which to plug their mobile phones.

Unlike Stefan who could barely speak a word of English, Alex was totally fluent. He had a Canadian accent thanks to the fact he'd lived there for six years before he tried to bribe the inspectors when they caught up with him for non-payment of tax. The message was clear. Their loss was our gain.

He admitted that he and other immigrants were taking our jobs, but said that they were shit jobs which no one else wanted. As if to prove his point, he ended up as a road sweeper. With undeniable clarity of thought and logic, he exclaimed that as long as he cleaned the streets, he should be able to sleep on them.

Stefan unsuccessfully plied his trade as a living statue. After failing miserably as a cowboy and Elvis, he borrowed some money and bought a Charlie Chaplin costume which only served to make him look like the spitting image of the world's most infamous dictator. Who that blonde-haired, blue-eyed family we saw with their arms draped around him thought they were really having their picture taken with was anyone's guess.

Just as Stefan was about to get too down and weary, he won the lottery. Well, a sort of lottery. The benefits form we witnessed him filling out earlier in the programme eventually paid dividends as he stood in front of a cash machine withdrawing £100. This scene along with the one where he received a set of gleaming false gnashers on the NHS played straight into the hands of Ukip.

Meanwhile in Liverpool things were going from bad to worse for Sandu who couldn't get a job and eventually faced the prospect that he must return home. Not, however, before spying a row of derelict and abandoned Merseyside houses which he proclaimed as being the height of luxury.

Although by the end of episode one - there are two more to come - we learnt that less than 2,500 Romanians currently in the country are actually claiming benefits, we also discovered that one in five of them are without a roof over their heads.

This was a depressing look at life. Not half as depressing though as the fact that many of those who tuned in, if only fleetingly, might start believing what Nigel Farage says.

As the cliche goes: all publicity is good publicity. And this was extremely good publicity indeed. For some more than others.