At the End of the Day

The demise of the eurozone gets more like the Eurovision Song Contest every year

There comes a point, in the process of reporting about the antics of the Eurocrats, beyond which there is very little point in continuing. Call it diminishing returns or diluted truth, the countries, crises and promises become interchangeable.

‘The Athens/Lisbon/Dublin/Madrid government remains supremely confident that this stage of rescheduling/bailout/grant/loan facility will mark the end of doubts concerning sovereign debt, because expenditure cuts/economic growth/new loans/German determination/ECB bond-buying programmes will ensure that, once a miracle has occurred, the doubters will be proved wrong’. And if that doesn’t work to calm the markets, call up another stress test.

‘Today, the euro rebounded from the lowest level against the dollar since March, as leaders worked to alleviate debt crises in Greece and Portugal,’ said Bloomberg this afternoon. What is the point of all this rebounding, when we all know perfectly well that – unless Germany steps in and goose-steps everyone into a fiscal Union with no exceptions – the euro is a dead duck?

I can’t answer that – although I think it likely that’s what will happen in the end. And if it does, that will leave the UK frozen put of a Grossdeutschland reborn 72 years after the Anschluss.

But no matter how hard I try in relation to this subject, I simply can’t escape from the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) parallels coursing through my brain. Yes, I know that Eurovision is a huge and cliched target; but I am trying to put it into another context here. I mean, how many analogies do you want?

First, there is the patronising Island Race view of the continentals. I switched on halfway through the ESC to discover an Irishman taking the merciless piss out of flesh-creepy announcers and surreal acts with tall hats riding bicycles around the stage. The only new thing in all that was the sexual orientation of the Irishman.

There were pyrotechnics, pyromaniacs, pirates and poppycock on display everywhere. Kitsch costumes, horribly insincere smiles and incoherent lyrics were in abundance. And yet and yet…you just knew that most Europeans were taking this seriously. In Britain, we weren’t: and that’s an important point. We don’t take the EU seriously either. We think it’s all about odd Belgians straightening sausages, Italians having under-age sex, Bavarians going oom-pah-pah, and the same old arguments between the Frogs and the Krauts.

Second, we have the obvious graft and favouritism. My wife and I sat there, corpsed by consistently guessing that Ukraine would vote for Russia, Turkey would vote for Azerbhaijan, Britain would vote for Ireland, and Germany would vote for Austria. This feature is so commonplace in the EU itself, to paraphrase the old German soccer gag, the EU is a game in which 27 nations pontificate, and then the French do what the Germans want.

Third, there is the inability of the British to speak any language other than their own. For this reason alone, a competition taking place in Stuttgart used English throughout, with only the scores being in French….because the French are second only to us in their linguistic nationalism. But of course, EU English isn’t really English: it’s not so much fractured as very badly sprained Eunglisch. All the prepositions are wrong, too many verbs use the -ing form, and the accent is distinctly American.

Fourth, the evidence of denial is overwhelming. It’s a ‘here we all are ever so happy and content in this great project of ours, coming together to celebrate the ultimate truth that while we all have different cultures, music can triumph over all obstacles and keep us united in a common bond of something or other rather vague’. But it isn’t remotely connected to reality, and it makes most British people want to vomit copiously and/or laugh out loud. Europe’s EU ideal is a busted flush of overspent budgets, fiscal lies, bloated bureaucracy, and expenses graft: as such, it would need to produce a winning song called ‘Boom Fiddly-Banga Bust’ in order to represent what a mess the whole idea is.

And last but not least, there is the ghastly banality. The Eurovision Song Contest is – and has always been – about songwriters desperate to conform, copy, derive and – above all – not challenge the audience. The mono-cyclists, dry ice and other transparent attempts to disguise mediocrity are themselves nothing more than the accepted conventions of presentation. For me, this represents by far the biggest disappointment – and the biggest departure from the ideal with which many of us started as Europeans forty years ago.

In 1971, I looked forward to a European community in which the best things about every member nation would act as a learning curve for the rest, and the cultural differences I’d experienced as a young man would be both celebrated and enhanced. But I should’ve known better: we’d already had the ESC since 1957, and even by then it was pretty awful. The EU has turned out to be little more than a song contest with predictable lyrics and cacophonous melodies. The sooner it is history, the better Europe will be.