It's sad to see someone like Engelbert Humperdinck brought low by cruel fate. He gave his all to win Eurovision and we should be proud of him.
However it's that time, like every year, where I point out exactly what the United Kingdom is doing wrong at Eurovision.
Before I do, let's just get one canard out of the way. Block voting. It's an issue that everyone always brings up, and some in this country use it as an excuse for our poor performance. Firstly they forget we engage in neighbourly voting with our friends in Ireland, so we really can't moan about it in others. And secondly, though block voting absolutely exists (Greece/Cyprus, Germany/Turkey, the Balkans, the Baltic, Scandinavia, the former USSR, Spain/Portugal), it does not mean a good song won't do well. Sweden won last night, Germany won in 2010, we got 5th position in 2009. Block voting punishes poor songs more than you'd expect but doesn't do enough to stop the momentum of an outstanding song. Here are some stats from 2007 (under a different voting system, I might add, but still relevant) which show this clearly.
So with that out of the way, what could we do better?
1) Choose a good song. We consistently choose bland songs that might be okay if heard at a restaurant but really don't cut it when put up for a television music contest. Remember when we got Lloyd-Weber and then Waterman to write our songs? Has-been, past their prime songwriters of a different generation. We get what we deserve if we aren't using the Eurovision song contest to highlight the talented songwriters we have all over the place in this country. We need people who are on the way up, not heading towards retirement! Be honest, did you see anyone (even in the UK) claim that Engelbert's was their favourite song of the contest?
2) Choose the right artist. We have a habit in this country of either sending someone completely unknown to Eurovision (Jade, that guy from 2010, Daz Sampson) or an act that's basically retired (Scooch, Blue, Engelbert). We have a huge diversity of amazing singers and acts in this country. We are one of the music capitals of the world. And yet we never send an active, known, talented act to Eurovision. And then we get surprised that we don't win! Send One Direction and watch us clean up.
3) Do a grand European tour. One of the many things Jade Ewan (5th place remember!) got right was appearing on lots of European TV shows before the contest in 2009. We must promote our song to others. We are so disengaged from Europe these days, and seem to view the Continent (which I can see clearly from the end of my street!) as some distant, unfathomable beast. It's not, if we get our good artist and our good song on the airwaves before the contest then we shall give ourselves an actual chance.
4) Lose graciously. Whilst all the other acts applauded Sweden's act as she walked to the stage last night, our contingent in the green room was having a group hug. Sheesh, show at least a little decorum. No wonder we do so badly, I wouldn't vote for us after that!
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist