On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart


On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor

Eurovision diplomacy

I have a confession to make. I am one of those sad people who takes an unhealthy interest in the Eurovision Song Contest voting patterns. And I am not alone, judging by some people I have chatted to on the diplomatic circuit lately.

Predictably, Britain came stone last again, prompting presenter Terry Wogan to claim woefully that the competition was a “political contest”.

But that’s why it’s fascinating – I don’t know of anyone who actually watches the show for the music or, heaven forbid, the daft costumes.

But what does this say about the state of Britain’s diplomatic relations with Europe? Quite a lot, if the chatter on the circuit is to be believed. The UK’s poor showing pointed to Britain’s “splendid isolation” in Europe grinned one smug diplomat (whose country had benefited handsomely from bloc voting).

The only way Britain can now get off the bottom rung, another quipped, is for the Kingdom to break up and its constituent parts to vote for each other, Balkan or soviet-style. There’s an idea… except Scotland would never vote for England.

Which begs the question: why did the ex-soviet states douse Russia with douze points? And some find it hard to believe the Balkans voting for each other.

But the answer is quite simple, really. It’s all about diaspora diplomacy. There are still a lot of ethnic Russians in the ex-soviet states and just about every Balkan country has large ethnic minorities.

So why didn’t the Poles in the UK vote for Poland to help themselves off the bottom rung? Perhaps, like the Brits, they just couldn’t be bothered.