Leading article: A bigger Europe has not made sweeter music

Pity the poor people of Liechstenstein. They, along with the Czech Republic, have never submitted an entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, apparently because of a lack of available musical talent. Those who watched the contest this weekend could be forgiven for wondering how bad this paucity of musicianship must be.

It takes the sardonic Terry Wogan adequately to describe the sorry procession of tuneless, untalented or downright ridiculous entries that paraded across our screens on Saturday night. Without Mr Wogan, in fact, the show would be unwatchable.

Time was when Britain tuned into the Eurovision Song Contest and actually cared about the outcome. We sang along with Sandie Shaw in 1967, cheered Lulu on in 1969 and commiserated with Cliff Richard when "Congratulations" came second in 1968. Back then less than 20 European nations took part, compared to the 37 countries this year. The merits of an enlarged Europe have been debated many times, but one thing is clear - it has not resulted in a better Eurovision Song Contest.

This is lowest-common-denominator television at its most gruesome, a triumph of show over substance, exacerbated by a demonstration of political bias that makes the voting patterns of the UN Security Council look like an exercise in unity. No doubt the BBC will point to vast viewing figures (the result, more probably, of the complete lack of anything else to watch). That the competition was won by a group described as "horror rock", dressed in grotesque masks and firing jets of flame, seems, somehow, only too appropriate.

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