I have always been a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, the 62nd instalment of which takes place in Kiev on 13 May. At least I hope it takes place – this has been one of the more troubled stagings, with the hostility between Ukraine and Russia spilling over into a competition that is supposed to be an expression of European solidarity.
There is one qualification to my fandom: I don’t think I have ever managed to sit through the contest’s entirety, which these days runs to more than three hours. The bit I like is the judging, which usually occupies the last quarter of the show. That’s when the amities and enmities between the nations of Europe – the centuries-old frictions that have always tended to undermine the grand ambitions of the Eurovision project – come to the fore. Cyprus and Greece vote for each other; Belarus backs Russia; the Scandinavian and Balkan countries vote as a bloc; and over the last 20 years, as the UK has increasingly become the odd one out in the EU, no one has voted for us. It was all too much for Terry Wogan, whose mordant commentaries kept the contest afloat in the UK. He quit in 2008, complaining that the event was now about politics rather than music.