Margaret Mountford, I Salute You

Guys, apologies. I’ve been so busy with all the reality TV stuff that I’ve neglected this blog for a week or two. Anyway, I’ll plough on before X Factor starts! My Sunday calm was completely and utterly devastated after checking my e-mails. My sister, who works at the Beeb, broke the news that Margaret Mountford, one of Sir Alan Sugar’s Apprentice sidekicks, is leaving the show. The 56-year-old wants to concentrate on her academic studies of ancient Egyptian manuscripts. How completely and utterly Margaret is that?!

Ms Mountford reminds me of a primary school teacher whom I absolutely adored and respected; matronly, clever, will brook no nonsense, intuitive… I wonder if they still make ’em like that these days? Sir Alan’s eyes and ears, alongside the equally wonderful Nick Hewer, she reported back to her boss on how Apprentice contestants did in their tasks. Speaking about the series, she said: "I have really enjoyed making The Apprentice and it was a very hard decision to say goodbye. But I am working on a Ph.D in Papyrology and I would like to concentrate on finishing this before I need a Zimmer frame to get on the platform to receive it. It has been an amazing experience, and certainly not one that I will ever forget."

Margaret first met Sir Alan in the 1980s when she was hired to advise him on legal issues with his firm Amstrad. Born and brought up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, she says her background aided her career progression, because "coming from Northern Ireland gives you a lot of basic level-headedness and stands you in very good stead." She was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, before becoming a solicitor in private practice. Margaret was a partner at Herbert Smith, a top-tier legal firm; it was at this time she met Sir Alan Sugar while she was doing legal work for Amstrad’s flotation on the Stock Exchange.

After retiring in 1999, Margaret took up her current role on the Amstrad board as a non-executive Director. Although never officially employed by Sir Alan, they have worked together on projects for over 20 years.

When The Apprentice first aired on BBC2 way back in 2005, few could’ve foreseen what a ratings juggernaut it would become. Last night’s final, for example, peaked at over 10 million viewers. At first, Margaret and Nick were bit players, but as their caustic witticisms increasingly made the cut, their cult status grew and so did their TV presence. I shall miss Margaret’s idiosyncrasies; her eye-rolling heavenwards, complete with an air of disdain, that fearsome, withering stare, her cutting tone of disapproval and the way she projected sheer disbelief that human beings could be so stupid.  

Today I even found myself wondering who would win a stare-off between the formidable Margaret Mountford and the Iron Lady herself at her peak, Margaret Thatcher… I can’t decide. But I tell ya what, not many men would win that one. 

The MSN Apprentice Awards 2009   
I’m handing out the MSN Awards for The Apprentice 2009. A selection of the ‘winners’ follows but you can see the full results here in our gallery.

The ‘Gordon Brown Air Of Doom’ Award goes to… Anita Shah.
From the moment the camera picked her out, complete with that hangdog expression, you just knew she’d be in the firing line.

The ‘Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood Worst Presentation’ Award goes to… Empire’s Olympic theme.
In week two, it was all Greek to us as the lads opted for an Olympic theme for the catering task. Foods originating from participating countries included peanut butter sandwiches (representing the USA) which was served to top City of London professionals by hairy men in tacky togas. "I look like I’ve just escaped from a mental hospital!" joked Majid Nagra. Quite.

The ‘I Was Narcissus In A Former Life’ Award goes to… Ben Clarke.
How does he love himself? Let him count the ways. Is anyone really surprised at Noorul Choudhury’s claim that Ben wants to pose naked for Heat magazine with just a rugby ball covering his bits?


Today I am mostly lovin’ – House and Hugh Laurie. Thank you Sky1 for picking up the show after Five dropped it. Two episodes a week too! 

Today I am mostly hatin’ – On a related theme, for the life of me I just can’t understand why this excellent show, featuring a much-loved British actor, isn’t a bigger UK hit. By the way Wossy, that was a really so-so interview with Hugh broadcast last Friday. Did the best bits end up on the cutting room floor?

MSN Editor Coops

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One Response to Margaret Mountford, I Salute You

  1. Tina says:

    Good on her! Will be sad to see her go, but heck, she\’s earned it!

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