There's something peculiar about the UK's relationship with Europe. It's like an arranged marriage - seems a good idea on paper (interests aligned, status consolidated, families united). But then you get to know them. And sometimes love doesn't grow like they all said it would. And you have to deal with the in-laws. And the begging cousins. And then you look at your other friends who didn't have arranged marriages. Norway struck rich, didn't she? Switzerland, too. Why can't we be like them? And then comes the awful thought that maybe this was all a mistake. And yes, it's going to cause friction and families will be divided and god knows how we're going to figure out splitting up the assets and reaching that settlement...BUT perhaps divorce is the only option.
And yes. I have just compared the conservative right and UKIP's thought process on the European Union to that of an arranged marriage. After all they are one of those foreign, non-British, murky things that don't belong on these shores.
Which brings me to Eurovision: another idealistic arranged marriage - which we celebrate every year - but can't help wondering on each anniversary: "do we really fit in here?"
I mean, really, how can we Brits relate to the Armenian singing about Apricot Stones (Armenia, 2010)? Yes, as in apricot stones. (sample lyric: "Apricot stone, hidden in my hand, given back to me, from the motherland"). Or a Hungarian love song (Hungary 2013) (sample lyric: "she makes a carriage of rosemary, pulled by crickets, soothing me quietly").
Even the sublime and poetic songs can be in a language that few Brits understand. (Italy, 2013) (sample lyric: "Whilst the world falls to pieces, I distance myself from its excesses and from bad habits. I turn back to the beginning - turn back to you - since for me, you're the only essential").
Of course, apart from language, it's the geopolitical realities at play. We may be technically European, but they're all "continental". We may be European, but we had an Empire and still have a Commonwealth - and a dear connection to not only the Anglo-Saxon world (Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada) but also to former colonies like South Africa and India. I truly believe we'd feel more comfortable at a Commonwealth Song Contest (btw - COPYRIGHT- that I would LOVE to see. Just imagine the Zambian entry! Or the Tongan one! Nicki Minaj for Trinidad and Rihanna for Barbados!!!! I need to calm down, sorry. *Begins pitch to Queen*).
After language and geopolitics comes the fear of the "other". How can we compete in a European contest with Azerbaijan and Armenia? (Note for the unwise - the European Broadcasting Union is basically a satellite and has nothing to do with the European Union - and yes, Lebanon and Algeria, Israel and Morocco are fully signed-up members to the EBU and are free to compete in Eurovision - but aren't part of the EU).
So whether it's superiority, xenophobia - or just 'being different'" - and whether it's the EU or Eurovision, our hearts just don't seem to be in it. What's more, we really don't send our best out there.
Little test: Scott Fitzgerald, Vikki Watson, Lindsay Dracass, Emma Booth. Go on, is that a list of MEPs or former UK Eurovision entrants? Or a mix of both?
The point is - you wouldn't know, would you? (Answer: they're all UK Eurovision entrants).
Despite having sent Cliff (twice), Lulu, Sandy Shaw and Olivia Newton John in the past, since our last win in 1997, the UK seems intent on sending either nobodies or has-beens - Gina G and Jade Ewen being the closest to artists who have had commercial success after Eurovision - and even then, at a stretch.
Of course, credible British artists are rumoured to shy away from the poisoned chalice. Even the promise of reaching the dizzy heights of ABBA or Céline Dion (Eurovision's most revered children) fails to convince. And they may have a point: Lena, Ell and Nikki, Alexander Rybak and Loreen are hardly household names (the last four winners).
It has been suggested before - but holding a nationwide, credible Saturday night competition (in the vein of X Factor or The Voice) with quality singers and songwriters may well inject life into the competition (and BBC1's Saturday night ratings) and re-ignite the UK's passion.
Despite all the detractors, it remains one of the most popular television shows, ratings-wise, in the country (not to mention the world!). I make no such assertions as to how we can re-ignite our interest in the EU though. But when was the last time you saw a bendy cucumber? That's got to be a plus, right?
Second test: who are Mary Honeyball, Den Dover and Bairbre de Brun? All Eurovision acts, right? Wrong. All UK MEPs. It seems sending nobodies to Europe is a recurring theme. Particularly given Michael Cashman (first gay kiss on UK TV), Robert Kilroy-Silk (first perma-tan on UK TV) and Nigel Farage (UK TV comedy gold), are also current UK MEPs. No wonder we have little credibility left on the continent.
Third and final test. What do Nana Mouskouri and Dana 'All Kinds of Everything' Scallon have in common?
I think that's the answer: we should send Bonnie Tyler to Brussels and Nigel Farage as our comedy act to Eurovision. The rest of Europe might not get the joke, but we'd find it bloody funny watching Cameron trying to put together a rival anti-Eurovision boy-band to steal his thunder.
The Eurovision Song Contest final is this Saturday, 18 May at 8pm BST.
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