Monday, 20 May 2019


When our entry “Bigger than us” came last in The European Song Contest on Saturday with just 16 points I was not surprised. We’ve been placed in the bottom five out of twenty six entries, an astonishing nine times, since 2005.  Either we are terrible musicians or we pick the wrong songs or we are just extremely unpopular.

In November 2018 Music Week trumpeted – that’s what you do in the music business – that the UK was a global leader in music: growing to an annual £4.5 billion turnover; exports up 7% to £2.6 billion. Receipts to the UK treasury just under £1 billion. So it’s not that.

When it comes to popular votes by which we choose our entry to this competition we have, let’s just say, a slightly uneven track record. As I watched poor Michael Rice giving what was described by the UK press as a “very solid performance” – could there be a worse accolade? – I knew we were doomed. Extremely solid performance. Extremely flaky song.

The answer then is an extraordinary feat of mediocrity, almost as though we didn’t really care. I fear we have become the global Millwall FC whose fans’ match song as you may know goes like this:  “nobody likes us, we don’t care".  And they don’t and we don’t.

We have become the stroppy kid who decided to walk out and now they’re all sniggering at us and making us very cross.

In the midst of all this confusion and self-pity I find an increasing sense of personal resolution because I have a funny feeling this is all going to work out OK in the end. The EU is a bit of a mess, which we knew. Mess is a constant in life. It all depends on how you deal with it.  If you consider Orban (Hungary) , Kurz (Austria), Salvini (Italy) and the presence of Le Pen (France), the AFD (Germany) the Union part of European seems open to question.

Yet we know young people, pretty well across Europe, mostly believe in collaboration, sharing, liberal values and quite soon, as they flex their muscles, they won’t put up with the playground behaviour of the right wing here or in Europe. They know, and let’s face it, this is all they’ve ever known, peace and success is achieved through compromise, listening and a determination to look after each other.

I find myself thinking that Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate change activist is altogether more wholesome and well principled in her ambitions for humanity in general than, say Nigel Farage, although I think he believes what he says. It’s just that,  as with Michael Rice, I don’t like the tune he’s singing. Old fashioned. Separatist. Hostile. Cruel.

We have to grow out of this belligerent Millwall tendency. In a democracy we must, of course, let this play out. But we need a better story for it to end well and we need to tell it better. It seems as though some think this is the Game of Thrones. It isn’t and we need to grow up and start being kinder to each other. It’ll just take a bit of time, calm and common sense.

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