Simon Kelner: It's vacuous and we lost, but Eurovision is still fun

Kelner's view

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The Independent Online

In the end, Engelbert didn't take care of business. For his performance representing Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, he wore a necklace given to him by Elvis Presley, inscribed with the initials "TCB".

But the only thing Mr Humperdinck took care of was the Norwegians. Taking his cue from England's footballers earlier in the evening, the old balladeer, who now looks more like a pensionable werewolf than a matinee idol, had a narrow victory over Norway to finish in penultimate position in the preposterously overblown contest to find Europe's "best" pop song. Britain has finished stone last three times in the past decade, so I suppose Saturday night's performance represents a minor triumph for The Hump.

I don't want you running away with the idea that I make a point of watching Eurovision, even though I am old enough to remember when it was a proper occasion, something that mattered to the nation, a time before Russia and Israel, bizarrely, appeared to be in Europe.

Simon Cowell was still warming his milk bottle up on the radiator at school when we were phoning up, or writing in, to select the song that would carry our hopes into battle.

I was at primary school, but I can recall the barefoot Sandie Shaw wowing the rest of Europe with "Puppet on a String". The contest meant something back then, and victory meant as much as a national sporting triumph. When Abba won in 1974 with "Waterloo" it launched them towards fame, fortune and, eventually, divorce and multi-million dollar law suits. Bucks Fizz, who ripped their skirts off and won for Britain in 1981, went on to record four hit albums and are about to embark on another tour.

Fast forward to Saturday night in Baku, and the man wearing our colours is 76 and last had a top 10 hit 42 years ago. The remarkable thing is not that he finished second to last, but that he managed to stay up long enough to hear the results.

Meanwhile, the winner, Loreen from Sweden, left, had all the charm and personality of an Ikea bookcase, the show itself was a pyrotechnic display of breathtaking vacuity, and, once again, the voting was pretty predictable for anyone with a rudimentary understanding of European geopolitics.

Of course, it's a ridiculous event that tells us naff all about anything. However, I couldn't help feeling, as the next electro-pop combo took the stage, that in homes across Europe they were all going to make a cup of tea when Engelbert was on, and possibly all making the same jokes.

I am a keen believer in European union – I've always thought it was a rather good wheeze to stop world wars – and I found it comforting to be part of a continent at play together. Anything that gives us a sense of togetherness, even something as risible as the Eurovision Song Contest, is basically a good thing.