Ireland at Eurovision

Right, let’s get this first thing over and done with at the start.

“All good things come to an end” is a lie.

The truth is, “all good things come to a slow, disappointing wet fart”, as fans of “Heroes” or Madonna will tell you. And so it goes with Ireland at the grand prix du cheesy pop, a contest broadcaster RTÉ momentarily considered an annex to its tourist board. Whilst Ireland’s entries at Eurovision these days seem underwhelming, the underlying message is “we genuinely like taking part, but can’t afford to keep this up much longer.”  Perhaps it’s the greatest achievement that Irish continue to avoid novelty songs (okay, there’s the turkey. And no, I’m not linking to it.)

It took Ireland five attempts to win Eurovision, which should have given the powers that be some hint of what was about to happen. The earliest entries are very staid and safe, even for the style at the time, such as 1967 heart-wrenching “If I Could Have Choose” (up against “Puppet On A String”, so it’s not like you could get a wider contrast in the middle of the swinging 60s.)

Win number one came a few years later with “All Kinds of Everything”. Now in hindsight, it’s not particularly terrible a song, but I know it winds up a lot of people so instead here’s Sinead O’Connor covering it for Channel 4.

Now an interlude, subtitled “How ‘Orish’ can Ireland get?”  There was one a song I understand is forced down the throats of every Irish schoolchild against their will. It took an entire generation or more for an out-and-out onslaught of Celtic cliche to be broken out, and that went on to win.

(And by Jeezus, did they break out the cliches again for the complete opposite result a few years later. I think this song is now called “Please Stop The Music”)

There have been moments when the good folk at RTÉ have clearly aimed for the Daniel O’Donnell route (overwrought trite which manages to out-satire Father Ted, I present to you “Millennium of Love” which genuinely asked people to imagine harvests of footprints for the children or some such dirge; and a few years later a hymn of such heavy moral expectation I expect vomit to spew from my laptop speakers. Either that or holy water.)

Ireland has enjoyed three main periods in their Eurovision life – winning all the time, having well regarded songs which didn’t quite make it, and every year since 1998.  Let’s sidestep the winners for now, because there’s only so many external links WordPress permits before I get flagged for potential malware, and let’s avoid the “silver period” for now, because that would mean giving more coverage to Colm Wilkinson than is really necessary, and I would have to justify my love for their 1989 cheesefest

So let’s pick over the 21st century bones, when all good things (seven wins, numerous second places, hosting the contest in a “converted” equestrian centre) came to a crashing end (the turkey, Jedward, etc.)

The depths of Ireland’s Eurovision history recently was their one night in Copenhagen, a contest infamous for being amongst the worst by any measure, which should give everyone hope for next year. On a massive stage, in front of a largely drunk audience, a sub-sub-sub-par Michael Bolton ballad bombed and the country was barred from taking part the following year. It could have spurred them on to try writing melodies again, but a combination of lethargy and economic collapse conspired against them. The song “We’ve Got The World” was chosen by a rather cumbersome “PopStars”/”Fame Academy” selection process, as was the style at the time, and whilst the end result was okay, the song copies the 2000 Danish winner with such little subtlety or shame I’m surprised they didn’t just go for the cover version.

Okay, like the red patch on your thighs which might be spreading but you don’t know yet, let us deal with Jedward. Plucked from the X-Factor like some kind of payback for all the problems the United Kingdom ever enacted, the Irish knew their audience well when putting the twins up against hopeless starlets in two selection processes. It said “We don’t want to win, but look, it’s like we’re taking this seriously, so it balances out”  Of the two songs – both single title, I think to help the lads remember the words – “Lipstick” remains the strongest of the two, although that is a “toilet paper verses rice paper” strength comparison. When “Waterline” turned up in Baku, the joke had worn off a bit, and the song needed an on-stage fountain to distract attention from the sorta-kinda-Avril Lavigne punk-pop thing going on.

Perhaps the choice to go all out this year – shirtless men! traditional instruments! three different melodies in one song! the kind of beat you only hear in gay clubs at 2 in the morning! – was a rush of blood to the head. Whatever it was, the producers of the Final chose “Only Love Survives” to end the whole show, and with unfortunate synchronicity, they finished rock bottom last. I remind you that better songs this year, according to the voting and who argues against that, include an operatic Romanian and the very drunk Bonnie Tyler.

Okay I’ll link to one of the winners, “Rock n Roll Kids” from 1994, with the additional bonus video footage of the now late Gerry Ryan presenting whilst (it’s now almost certain) topped up on some extra-curriculum medication of some kind or other. *Sniffs*

I want to end with a bit of Father Ted turned real. Having won three times in a row, Ireland could not afford to win (by any measure). So what do you do when faced with bankruptcy? Choose a complete turkey. Keep dreaming, Ireland…

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Finland at Eurovision

The unconscious madness of Eurovision heads into its fourth era – “relative normality” – at a time when its place in the schedules appears even more tenuous than normal. At least during the third era – “beyond parody”, aka “the early 2000s”, aka “what do you mean, irony?” – there was a sense that eventually everything would calm down. Like the child left alone with a six-pack of Dr Pepper, “eventually” took a long time. Maybe too long. We shall see.

Waiting too long for something to come from investing time, money and, well just money into the whole affair was Finland, one of the nations which joined the family back in the black-and-white days. The booze-and-mobile country famous for giving those pesky Russians what for had to wait until the peak/nadir/plateau/trough of the “novelty years” to win, appropriately enough with a self-parody rock song which correctly balanced “camp” with “FLAMING” in a year when such a feat seemed lost to the ages.

Anyway, Finland began in the early 1960s, an era of Eurovision which underlined how out of touch it was with the music “scene” even then. If you’ve ever been hungover/coming down/humping on Saturday mornings with BBC Two in the background, you’ll probably recognise the orchestral background to Finland’s debut from the RKO “classics”.

“Playboy” was perhaps their first real shot at understanding how Eurovision actually “worked”, by proudly sounding so out of step with the music at the time it’s little wonder every passing American felt it their duty to flood radio stations with their own artists.

Finland eventually swigged every available drop of booze and vowed to remain as detached from reality as dear old Auntie Margaret for as long as possible. And by my measure, this trip on the HMS Batshit lasted from before my parents met to just after puberty smacked me around the particulars, so that’s pretty good going. Dear old Finland launched into the spirit(s) with “Tom Tom Tom”, “Pump Pump” and many moons later “Yama Yama” without a care in the world. They were trolling Europe well before it became fashionable – wouldn’t you say, Eastern Europe – and always with an undercurrent of sincerity, like the office bitch, if you will.

(In)Famously, the unhinged behaviour of Finland introduced the contest to moments of remarkable moments in television history, not just music. I doubt we’ll ever get over the initial impact of hearing a soft-punk-ish entry about nuclear war, complete with punches to the head at every chorus, never mind their joyful tune about the Rapture taking away all life on earth except for the singer (or at least that’s what I took from the lyric “Though a hundred lightning strikes at the earth and all of life explodes, nobody can take love from me.”)

As a child of the 90s, my fondest memories are watching Finland attempt to sober up. This was ultimately achieved when Eastern Europe gatecrashed the party, meaning the old hands had to sit out due to a low average score/just not being good enough/being sick over Norway, that sort of thing. In reality that meant coming down from the too good to be really bad to the crushing disappointment of being in Birmingham. I mean, the crushing disappointment of watching as their most grounded and sensible song in decades crashed and burned without mercy.

(I blame the man playing the plant pot)

The fallow years of the entire contest, not just Finland’s journey through it, was topped  by them winning the thing (sorry, Portugal, not going to happen). They made a good attempt at avoiding being forever associated with madcap lunacy with something soft, and something disco, both of which were welcomed by the Eurovision family with a reaction approaching that of a husband greeting the wife’s new haircut with too heavy a pause.

So anyway, Lordi happened, which the rest of Europe thought was good enough to copycat to a degree (Czech Republic, Albania, Macedonia, the usuals). When Finland tried to copy themselves, always a good card to play at Eurovision, it was with a better song (and therefore had no chance).

Most recently, we’ve seen Finland settling down to such normality (lad with guitar singing about saving the world, woman without guitar singing in Swedish and subsequently getting death threats from supporters of True Finns) that it was with refreshing to tune in this year to watch both Azerbaijan and feminism being shot with the one bullet of “Marry Me”. As a reprise of everything they once stood for, “Marry Me” was a plunge into the sauna – dance routine, dodgy lyrics (“I’m your slave and you’re my master!”) and a gay kiss, it’s as though  the 2000s had never happened…..

Fame Academy

Auntie Beeb has an awkward relationship with ‘event television’, the kind of big ticket items commercial broadcasters know massive outlay splooge can be spent because advertising revenue will recoup part of the costs. For the Beeb, chasing the ratings and yet being innotive with programming is the eternal struggle for its own existence; it’s why latest Saturday ratings hopeful “101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow” will be wrapped around the Licence Fee discussions like a tightly knotted neon turd.

Ahead of the game with “Strictly Come Dancing”, the Beeb was caught napping around the time of the “Pop Idol”/”Pop Star” frenzy, to such a degree it cobbled together buttoned-up talent show “Fame Academy”. Rather than replicate the ITV pace-setters entirely, the Beeb went for “education” and “learning”, with the positive elements of training the starlets to write their own material and only sing where they felt comfortable. Unlike “The X-Factor”, which looks beamed from another universe in compairson, the students of ‘the Academy’ were not made to sing from outside their comfort zone or be made to feel awkward about thier differences. While this should be applauded – it made for refreshing change to the sausage-factory approach to talent television – “Fame Academy” utilmately suffered by producing only one commercially viable contestent in two series…and he soon faded from sight.

A select few “Fame Academy” wannabes, to be fair, did anything after the credits rolled. Did the BBC fail them? Unlike “The X Factor”, or indeed “Pop Idol/Star”, there was a sense of realism about the business called show. The fact that each person was shown struggling to write and sing every week showed far more realism than the polished products which turn up on the “X Factor” stage every week. “We want to make you a star…if we can” probably did for the BBC in the end; nobody on reality television likes reality to be so, well, real.

Limahl, who didn’t win, made the best of his lot with well regarded RNB albums and strings of MOBO nominations and rewards. He is the only person from the show to have anything like that kind of success, such as it was. James Fox, who didn’t win, represented the UK at Eurovision, which at least guaranteed millions of viewers if not exactly sales. It must be particularly good for the spirit of a wannabe singer to know, perhaps halfway through the performance, that absolutely no good would come from singing. There are parallels to be made with my sex-life, but that should be for another blog…

Peter Brame, who had the kind of Doherty/Gallagher hybrid look that commercial broadcasters would avoid touching like the plague for being too difficult to explain to its viewers, went from the show to celebrity bed-hopping and tabloid tales. His attempt at a commercial career failed; I include the only single to get into the public domain here for reference.

David Sneddon had a woeful single release, one of the ear-worm chorus types with faux-humility running through the verses like so much off milk. Ainslie Henderson – kind of “Homebargains Roddy Woomble” – made my trips to the jukebox much easier with a belter of an one hit wonder, to be followed by absolutely nothing. This is one of the shames of the reality TV consequences, that a good singer/songwriter was left washed up before his career got going. Cruel, and not necessairly realistic.

Alex Parks, whose victory was the antidote to fame craze television, made the best of a badly handled career. The shy Cornish lesbian clown (four no-nos in a row for ITV, there) had her first album hastily released by a record company which didn’t really know what to do with her; the follow-up was years later and flopped. The girl who sounded like Tracy Thorn with hiccups (as a mate of mine put it once) could have been another Annie Lennox or Kate Bush….

Lessons learned from “Fame Academy” hang around the BBC “future” argument even today. Chasing ratings, trying to be distinctive, supporting new music….the elements of contemporary issues with the Beeb have some threads running back as far to the “Academy”, when the Beeb thought it could compete with the phone-in stardom craze so succesfully monopolised by commercial rivals. Today the Beeb can hear the clock ticking on its future; how it reacts to its place in multi-channel broadcasting now seems just as important as it did years ago.

Below, Peter Brame’s only attempt at the singles charts, and the Alex Parks single which blows out of the water most of the vocal gymnastics to come out of “X-Factor”.

Do Not Want

Dragged my hungover, sleep deprived body into work on Monday. The Sun tried a surprise sobering-up tactic by printing unexpected shots of Ashley Cole’s baggy underpants on the front page. No need, really, was there? There is the redeeming factor that it was obviously a cold day when the photo was taken, I suppose…

An email arrived from my landlady. Some kind of boiler inspection is forthcoming. Joy of joys; my mood was not dragged from lethargy and clock-watching, and on returning home I slumped into a heap on the sofa rather than deal with the kind of bedroom you’d expect to see photographed by a whistleblower revealing the truth about “Britain’s Worst Laundrette”.

Getting somewhat fed up with Twitter. This may not surprise the thousands of people whose own accounts and feeds lay dormant after initial interest. I have yet to decide on all the reasons why it has become rather tedious, although recent British “memes” related to domestic politics really has turned me completely off. How can UK politics be so tedious? There is numerous examples of “walled garden” activity, of users with little influence in the real world assuming they speak for thousands in the virtual one. I should know; the readership of this blog is not high enough yet for me to claim world-wide audiences even if occasional visitors to arrive from South Korea, Ireland, and…er…the House of Commons.

A topic to return to later, I suspect.

Up until this weekend, whenever pub or workplace conversations turned to “worst football songs ever” – and every month or so, they tend to reach such topics – I would always suggest with the predictability of a cracker joke the uninspiring dross that was the Embrace/Spice Girls/Echo and The Bunnymen disaster from 2006. Oh, Euro2006, will your consequential ripples stop flowing through history?

Anyhoo, turns out this auto-response will have to be updated. For reasons unknown – and it may take time to find any with credibility – a former X-Factor loser has written a stirring anthem for the upcoming Carling Cup match against Man Utd. Now, given that the song is called “Championee” – as a friend points out, the Spanish for “mushroom” – and no team has ever before been prompted to mark the league cup with an official song, you may be getting the slight hint that the finished product is rather second rate.

It’s not even that. It’s barely a Eurovision song, never mind a future terrace chant favourite. Which, with depressing predictability, is exactly what the writers suggest it will become.

So, then, here it is. I am sure all other teams, not least Birmingham and Wolves, are eagerly downloading this in anticipation of the Utd victory…

http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/4732641/

Rage against the X-Factor

Iron Maiden did it. But then again, so did Bob The Builder. And moreover as much as it can be accepted that some damn good pop songs have come from the race to get to Christmas Number One – that oh so British tradition – how many times can a person actually listen to “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” before blood begins to seep through the ears?

Invariably associated with novelty songs and faded celebrity, the nature of Christmas Number One has changed over recent years. Yes, it is still more to do with different PR companies attempting to race each others fax machines, although in more cases than not, the same companies can often be involved in the race even if the media-led rivalry appears a genuine battle between different groups.

It’s always been about the chart place rather than the music, of course. Well, unless you actually really like “Merry Xmas Everybody”. Try hearing it in the middle of June. Go on, put it on Spotify in August, then see how good it is to sing “Here’s to the future now…..” in the middle of Aldi. At least the reality TV explosion has, in a strange round-a-bout fashion, attempted to make the focus of the chart battle actual songs…

This year’s battle is between yet another winner of the X-Factor, and Rage Against The Machine. Older readers may recall the battle in 2000, when Bob The Builder outsold Eminem to take the “top spot” of Number One at Christmas way back then. It was a similar media-led event; both records were hyped to the hills one everything from BBC Breakfast News to questions in the House of Commons. In the end, Bob beat Eminem and the world didn’t end.

Cliff Richard is the man whose rule over the Christmas charts was once without question, although this has all come to end once he played his best (and most cynical) card to date; putting the Lord’s Prayer to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” reeks of Cowell-level commercial interests. Barmy and brilliant, the evangelical community bought it up by the Ark-load.

This year, the X-Factor winner has one of the weakest ever “winner’s songs”, in “The Climb”. It sounds like a parody record. Indeed I have known worse Eurovision records than “The Climb”, and that includes the Swiss entry from 1994. And the Luxembourg entry from 1989. And for that matter, the Hungarian entry from 1995. While hundreds of thousands of “The Climb” have been bought and downloaded, many hundreds of thousands more of “Killing in the Name Of…” have been purchased in retaliation. This could be the most “credible” song to hit number 1 at Christmas since the 2003 surprise winner “Mad World” from Donnie Darko. Before that, we’re looking at the absolute classic “Saviour’s Day” from 1990. No, I mean it. One of the best songs ever written, and I’m not a Christian. Come on – the melody, the lyrical flow, the lyrics….No? Just me…?

Maybe, just maybe, the race for Christmas Number One really has been a joke on the entire British nation. No other country does it. Not even the Americans, and by-and-large, Americans are mental. Whatever makes Britain turn into month-long chart speculators I do not know; it really cannot be just about the songs that make it. It must be about the spirit of the underdog, wanting the one-hit-wonders and no-hit-makers to have their little place in music history. There’s always be a little place in my heart for the commercial radio weather girls who find themselves as a new entry at number 124, or the one-time big star reduced to hoiking her Christmas single around every daytime sofa-show for the one big chance of a top-30 “comeback”.

I fully support the “Rage Against The X-Factor”. If Lordi can win Eurovision, and if Iron Maiden can themselves get “Bring Your Daughter…” to Christmas Number One, then the time has come for another national two-fingered salute to the expected and the assumed. Let us remember that Joe from the X-Factor has an entire life-time to churn out (or have churned out on his behalf) endless Westlife covers. This is the one chance for the sidelined, the leftfield, the alternative, the angry, the sagging-jeans-while-holding-a-skateboard, all of them, to unite against the manufactured schlop of reality TV.

And if anyone else points out that both Rage… and Joe are on the same record label, I may go cuckoo-bananas…It’s Christmas. Live a little…

UEFAVision

You could see Sepp Blatter’s hands more obviously than Thierry Henry’s. With the less than able assistance of a bewilderingly lost Charlize Theron and the copper from ‘Allo ‘Allo, the draw for next year’s World Cup Finals dragged on for longer than the Eurovision Song Contest. It contained more rules and regulations than those used to ensure the daily running of the Large Hadron Collider.

On the Saturday after the tedious ping-pong ball extraction, The Guardian had a proposal. Mix the idea behind the UN Security Council with FIFA’s intention to represent the whole world in football, to invent in time for the Brazil World Cup a far wider and larger contest. In short, give automatic qualification spots to the best teams in the world rankings, to give “smaller” associations a better chance of getting to the finals. I say “smaller”, even when South Africa 2012 includes New Zealand and Slovakia, under achievers both.

On a world-wide basis, I cannot see this laudable suggestion being adopted. To be fair, FIFA really are not on the look-out to create an actual international footballing event, hence the urgency with which they sought to keep France and Portugal in the Finals in the closing stages of the European qualifying section.

However there are merits to changing the way international football competitions are organised, starting with the qualifying stages. I do wonder how frustrating it must be for a young boy waking up on the eve of his thirteenth birthday to the news from his parents that he is, sadly and tragically, a resident of the Faroe Islands and therefore will never witness decent football at any level throughout his entire life.

If this “Security Council” plan is to move forward, let us start small. UEFA will soon begin the qualification for Poland/Ukraine 2012. Rather than continue along the formulaic route of putting small and micro-nations into the same qualifying groups as England, France, or whichever other high achievers, could it be too much to ask for than a little out-of-the-box consideration? Give the smaller associations – Andorra, San Marino, Cyprus, Norn Iron, Luxembourg and so on – their own dedicated qualifying group with at least two guaranteed places in the Finals. On a world-wide context, such “small” countries as India, Pakistan, and Canada, and as such “obscure” states as Palestine, Israel, and Iraq, find it almost impossible to make it to the top table of FIFA’s corporate feast of football and merchandise. Maybe it is fluffy and idealistic to want an internationalist perspective, but given the aims of both FIFA and UEFA, why not allow more countries the chance to play competitive football at a higher level than they may otherwise have achieved?

Fading memories of Zaire and THAT free kick, or Kuwait and THAT half-time malaise, should ensure any future aims to help the smaller countries can be untarnished by such botherations as actual FACTS. And anyway, it would mean smaller television draws and no comedy Frenchman presenter.

Vote for Songs, Vote for Change

Someone have a word with Simon Cowell. If he of the high-trousers wants an international X-Factor, he’s better off saving his money. There already exists a multi-national amateur singing contest, it’s called Eurovision and at almost 60 it’s had ten-times the life span of most talent show careers.

But…all the same, Cowell knows when he’s onto a winner. Not that the “final 4” in the current run of the X-Factor is exactly over running with talent. The main prize has rarely been given to someone who deserves it (see, for that matter, most talent shows, namely Eurovision and the fancy dress contest at a hotel in Split back in 1991. I’m not bitter but damn it, all the winners did was wrap themselves in out-of-date Beano comics……)

Sorry, back to the X-Factor. The apparent favourite is Daryl, who has the satisfied arrogance of a libel lawyer with an ability to add extra long notes to the end of everything he sings like some form of computer character “special move”. He’s up against a one-time contestant on Deal Or No Deal, called Olly Murs, who has been forced to warble the same old selections from The Greatest Copyright Free Swing and Blues Album…Ever! while being talked about as “one of the lads”. When he was made to perform (and/or murder) George Michael’s “Fastlove” in a tight shirt and AIDS awareness ribbon I wonder exactly what had happened to the “one of the lads” demographic. Maybe Simon had been off that week. He often is.

A squat gnome-faced 12 year old called Joe, who should have never been allowed near a microphone on pain of death, has been consistently voted through despite the (very) annoying habit of turning every song into a theatrical pastiche. You know Mitch Benn? You know how everything Mitch Benn does is a) unfunny, and b) forced, and c) unfunny and forced and annoying and unfunny? Joe is RIGHT up there with the forced, annoying, unfunny Mitch Benn. He’s likely to win. It’s just not right. If Simon Callow wants a winner – and it’s likely he doesn’t really give two-hoots now there’s the opportunity to reinvent the Eurovision wheel – then Stacy “Essex girl who actually lives in the London Borough of Dagenham but why ruin a USP” Soloman is the one on whom a fiver should be placed at the bookies.

Okay, Stacy does sound like an over polished Hazel Dean, but compared with the other three – Mr Arrogant Warbler, Mr Ambiguous, Mr Mitch Benn – she’s the only one who has a singing voice worth hearing more than once. Just.

Voting for any of these potential one-hit wonders is not something I am likely to do, all that said. My real focus is on actual voting and actual democracy, with long-term consequences and all that stuff. I am annoyed to the highest limits with the news that chicken-scared Labour MPs are attempting to force Gordon Brown into rushing changes to the Westminster voting system through Parliament to trap the Conservatives into looking like “status quo stick-in-the-muds”. In short, Labour MPs who may well lose their seats in 2010 (and so they should) hope that switching to AV will a) keep them in a cushy job for a few more years, and b) stuff the Tories ever ruling with a working majority ever again.

As a liberal, a democrat, and a Liberal Democrat, my life-long dream has been to see the introduction of a fairer voting system for Westminster. AV is not my first choice by any stretch. I would much prefer STV. But of course, STV means Labour are not likely to keep the big bad Tories out of office. And for some robotic ultra-loyal Labour MPs, they would rather keep their careers nice and feather lined (so hence this cynical attempt to force through a Tory blocking measure before March 28th), than actually deal with the inadequacies of the FPTP system.

Using “politics as usual” techniques to suggest “politics is really changing” is the lowest form of Westminster game playing. It’s little wonder Yes, Minister and Thick Of It make me cringe so much; they are so much like the real goings on inside the corridors of power they may as well be broadcast as news.

It’s enough to make me give up on politics all together and become a talent show judge.

This is London calling…

Gordon Brown is mad. There is nothing ground breaking in that statement, almost every commentator has dropped enough hints. Like some Soviet-era leader from the times before his appearances become increasingly rare and more suggestive of a person not in full control of his capabilities. “Psychologically flawed” we know is an old comment on the Prime Minister, “insecure”, “self-conscious”, “angry” comes from leaked emails today alone.

Is it as unfair to bring up personal flaws in this matter as it was to focus on, say, Susan Boyle? Media pressure, the constant need to keep up stories and maintain the mood in the headlines, abhors unity. But the important point is Brown’s place as our Prime Minister; we cannot be lead by a troubled man surrounding himself with the evidence of his ‘reverse Midas’ touch.

Today is the democratic version of the Eurovision Song Contest. Across Europe, except the Dutch who like to do things differently, the votes in the European Parliament elections will be counted from tonight. The Dutch results show a high vote for the controversial Party For Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid), their leader banned from the UK, their policies extreme on matters of immigration.

I cannot feel comfortable about the British results. The far-right BNP are very likely to win a seat, such short-term reactions which fill me with dread and not too little fear. There is nothing good, no edifying characteristic, to come from the British National Party, whose members cannot defend with any seriousness or validity their horrific and prejudiced views. Of course mainstream political parties have failed in their responsibilities, of course attitudes towards mainstream political parties is the most negative that I have known. Building up our reputation is the highest of all priorities – that means getting on the streets, dealing with people on their level, not prescription politics but community action. All that needs to be done to combat the apathy and understandable distrust of politicians.

Tonight, all over Europe, the votes will decide the future of countries in a way barely explained one inch over the last few years never mind the “election period”. It upsets me that the BNP will be given some form of legitimacy on a European level. Whatever hard work needs to be done to combat them needs to be started, and started now.

Europe needs vision. Eurovision, that is.

On June 4th, a voter in South Holland, Lincolnshire, will perform an act at the same time as someone in southern Holland, in the Netherlands. In an act of choreographed synchronicity and glorious democratic union, voters from across Europe will vote for the same institution across a heady long weekend. In a parallel universe the whole event will be covered in full colour, round the clock news, maybe a special series of programmes at prime time following twenty-seven voters swotting up on each and every manifesto before casting their votes. On Sunday, all schedules would be cleared for a live results programme in debt to the grand musical charade of the Eurovision Song Contest. “Helsinki, can we have your provisional ballot counts, please?”

Back down to earth, the coverage of the European Parliament elections is derisory. Front-page headlines in the United Kingdom are taken up by MP sleaze and failed singers. On the fringes, the United Kingdom Independence Party and far-right British National Party are set to win big; the bookies Ladbrokes has closed the book on the BNP winning a seat. Politics has not been knocked around the waves as much as it has with the strong winds of “expenses-gate”, crashing and crumbling around the dark storm waves. It is time for MPs to be recalled, an election to be called, change to come…With live phone-voting and gunge!

Okay, not gunge. Gunge is so 1994. But there should be a line-up of lead candidates whose names are read out in a random order to determine who has won the first seat in a given region. The presenter – Claudia? Davina? One of the Kirstys? – has to wait for the fake heart-beats before announcing each failed candidate. Then straight to a live feed from a news studio in Warsaw featuring a dance routine and abstract graphics. “That green arrow must mean a gain of something!” chatters the presenter – John Barrowman? No…..

Although the Internet has made it possible to watch live-feeds from news channels across Europe, surely television can do far better? If we can have three hours of multi-lingual singing and voting, then we can have nation-by-nation political “It’s A Knockout!” too. Dance routines representing each nation – Diversity! Of course! There’s enough of them for the whole of Western Europe in the first opening section – and of course the famous douze points. Who would declare the British votes – Robert Kilroy-Silk? “Will you stick…or shaft?” Or Anne Robinson, sneering with over-rehearsed theatre whenever Labour win something. There should be segment where a Belgian is slapped for every time somebody feels fed up with the d’Hondt voting system.

The European Parliament elections should be sexy. The whole of Europe linked together as one democratic superforce has so much potential, if not political than definitely for television. So away with relegating coverage to supplements and comment columns. Now is the time to shake up the process, inject some showbiz, and make it shine. Lord knows, the expenses scandal has gone on long enough, bring on the dancing horses…But not John Barrowman, please….