26 May 2008

A whinge for Europe

Much muttering amongst the British conspiracy theorists, as once again the UK came last in the Eurovision song contest, something which happens almost as often as Ireland used to win it. I say "used to", for now, according to popular wisdom (or at least Terry Wogan), it would be impossible for anyone outside one of the so-called "regional voting blocks" to win. This means a country outside either Scandinavia, Baltic states or former Soviet Bloc countries.

Actually it's a pretty loose amalgam, but more or less any combination of results can be used to frame the sceptics arguments - thus if Croatia votes for Russia, it's called a slavic fix, or if they vote for Bosnia-Herzegovina, it becomes a Balkan carve up. Never mind that UK and Ireland regularly prop each other's feeble efforts up with maximum points, such sour grapes seems to be overlooking some rather basic points.

First, how many of us could remember what the UK entry was called, never mind hum it 48 hours later? By a singer whose chief claim to fame was not winning a talent contest; as a former bin man, it seems maybe Andy Abraham had been on a busman's holiday. If the UK didn't have a guaranteed bye into the final, it would have pushed Ireland's singing puppet for a less lifelike rendition of a novelty record.

By contrast, the Russian winner, Dima Bilan, is the Robbie Williams of eastern Europe, shifting millions of records as his day job. Is it possible people might have voted for him because he was an already popular singer? Of course not, because we hadn't heard of him. As well as himself, Mr Bilan had a bloke with him playing a 200-year-old Stradivarius AND an Olympic ice-skater doing circuits of the stage; give the guy his dues, at least he made the effort.

According to Terry Wogan, the performance by Andy Abraham "certainly deserved more marks than it got". Truly we must be clutching at straws, the day when we start taking Terry Wogan's views on pop music seriously

Leaving aside the aesthetics of the song contest, it seems our knowledge of recent history is about as attuned as our ear for Slavic pop. According to the conspirators, an eastern European love-in happens every year, simply because they are next door to each other. On Saturday night both Georgia and the Ukraine awarded Russia the maximum 12 points, less than 5 years after nearly declaring war on the former Motherland. Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia all traded points, despite a bitter and bloody civil war in recent memory, not to mention centuries of ethnic tension.

But let's assume the conspirators are correct and Britain will never triumph again. That would explain an entry attaining mid-table obscurity, not last place. Saturday's piss-poor finish by the UK is not explained by Croatia giving Russia 12 points, but rather by nobody at all giving us 12 points. Not even Ireland, a country whose own entry suggests they know a thing or two about singing turkeys.

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