United Kingdom – Engelbert Humperdinck’s failure at last night’s Eurovision Song Contest was sure to create some reactions in the UK press. I expected tabloids like “The Sun” and such to blame the bad result on the evil east and the political voting as usual, but when I had to read an article by the (in my view) respected Guardian, I just could not resist to write an answer. Here is my letter to Mark Lawson, the author of “A belligerent Eurovision night fit for a broken Europe”
Dear Mr. Lawson,
I have recently read your article about the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 and was surprised about its factual inaccuracy considering it was published on the website of the respected newspaper “The Guardian”. Apart from the factual errors that I will designate, there are a few opinions I will be trying to refute.
You suggest that the United Kingdom has experienced “decades of defeat“. The last victory by the United Kingdom was in 1997. The UK additionally came second in 1998, third in 2002 and 5th in 2009. To talk about decades of defeat is surely an exaggeration, no?
Furthermore, you suggest that “Azeri TV took the unusual step of showing the external scrutineers from Eurovision, present to remove doubt about the counting.” If you had done the necessary research, you would know that this asking the supervisor of the EBU, whether the voting is ready, is a very old tradition and is the annual ritual before the voting begins, no matter whether the final is in Azerbaijan, Germany (2011) or Norway (2010). Additionally, it is the independent company Digame, based in Cologne, Germany that collects the votes from all over Europe. Manipulation from the part of the host broadcaster is thus almost impossible!
You suggest also, that there are voting blocks due to political friendship in Eurovision. While that is not completely wrong it would be nice to go a bit more in-depth. Yes, Cyprus and Greece usually exchange their 12 points and yes, that is not entirely based on the song. This time however, the Cypriot song was a hit in Greece, charting in the Greek itunes chart on #2 before the final. Both the Greek and Cypriot song were arguably part of the same musical genre. It is not surprising, that Greece votes for a song similar to the one it chose in its national final.
You also say that Serbia and Montenegro swapped their 12 points. That is impossible, as Montenegro did not qualify to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. It is true that Montenegro gave 12 points to Serbia. You have to consider, however, that the Serbian representative , Zeljko Joksimovic, is close to a legend in all Balkan countries. These countries share a music market and a cultural background. If the UK split into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and England sent Adele , where do you think the Scottish votes would go?
Last but not least you attribute the fact that Germany and Greece ignored each other to tensions in the Euro crisis. While there is another factual mistake! (Germany awarded Greece 1 point!) you do not mention, that Greece also did not vote for France, which just elected a president that could favor Greek interests or for Spain, which are in a similar situation. On the whole the German song did not get points from too many countries (high marks from Denmark, Hungary, Ireland helped it into the Top 10), as did the Greek song. It seems as if you use untrue arguments to proof your opinion.
Now to more subjective problems I have with your article:
If the contest is completely political and only countries that profit from block voting do well, how come Germany, that has virtually no friends in traditional voting pattersn, made it into the Top 10 three years in a row, even winning in 2010? Why did Sweden win with top marks from Norway, Denmark, Finland but also from Russia, Israel and Hungary?
Why is the winning song from Sweden number 1 on the British iTunes charts, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s song is nowhere to be seen?
And if you criticize Montenegro for supporting Serbia, what do you say about the United Kingdom giving 10 points to Jedward from your neighbouring country, Ireland? The arguments may be: Jedward are stars in the United Kingdom, they appear in British television shows, many people know them,there are many Irish people living in the UK and they sang in a language British people understand. That’s why the UK gave its 10 points to Ireland. Why did Montenegro give its 12 points to Serbia? Zeljko Joksimovic is a superstar in Montenegro, he appears on Montenegrin television shows, many people know him and there are many Serbian people living in Montenegro, he sang in a language (Serbian) that Montenegrin people understand. Why is one political and the other one isn’t?
And now something very subjective:
Personally (as well as the people watching with me and many people commenting on the Internet), I thought the UK entry was terribly old-fashioned and dull. The staging was to conservative and Humperdinck did not sing too well, either. I saw a video from the jury dress rehearsal (where the juries that accounted for 50% of the result voted), where he sounded terribly off-key. He may have been a big star, but that was years ago. I never heard of him before the BBC’s announcement.
I love the UK, I love your language, your music, your literature, but no way in hell would I have voted for a song like that! I would suggest that you lighten up a little and learn to see the big picture. As a non-journalist I would also suggest you get your facts right next time!
Your friend from the doomed continent