- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

ZURICH — Here’s more evidence that Britain is on the outs with the rest of Europe: For the first time in the 48-year history of the ultracampy Eurovision Song Contest, not even one nation awarded a vote to the British entry.

It may not prove the most effective political barometer, but the snub — watched live by more than 150 million world viewers Saturday night — has British newspapers and television in a stir, and music insiders are asking whether antiwar backlash should seep into the pop contest billed as the “festival of international friendship.”

What’s more, the competition’s British entry, a duo from Liverpool called Jemini, had their dressing room door kicked in at the end of the night, according to reports.

“I think politically we are out on a limb at the moment,” Jemini songwriter Martin Isherwood told BBC Radio. “As a country, I think we paid the price.”

“It could be that the song was just truly awful and deserved it, but I think there’s actually a deeper story here,” Jeremy Corbyn, a war critic and member of the British Parliament, told the London Times.

“People across Europe are fed up with Britain’s over-close relationship with the United States and arrogance in the rest of the world, and the war in Iraq demonstrates this very well.”

The British, whose pop music rules the airwaves of its European neighbors, generally finish well at Eurovision, an event taken quite seriously on the Continent. The British last won it all in 1997, and have finished second 15 times.

Jemini singer Chris Cromby, whose group earned the right to represent Britain by winning a British Broadcasting Corp. contest, referred to Eurovision as a kind of Olympics for his industry. As gaudy and cheesy as it is, the competition does launch careers, as it did for ABBA and Celine Dion.

Twenty-six countries submitted one musical act apiece for this year’s show, held in Latvia. Each country then awarded points to the bands that proved most popular in national televoting.

Turkish performer Sertab Erener won with 167 points. Britain finished last with no votes. Not even Ireland, which normally supports its neighbor, gave up any points to Britain (though Britain gave Ireland 12, the maximum).

“I hate to say it, but the United Kingdom got zip,” British commentator Terry Wogan said during the broadcast. “I think, as they say, there is an element of political voting that goes on here.”

Politics aside, critics said Jemini simply sang out of tune and put on a poor performance. Many fans who logged onto the BBC Web site supported that view.

“To blame it on the results of the U.K. being mates with the U.S. and having an unpopular war with Iraq would simply shy away from an out-of-tune performance and a not-so-catchy song,” wrote David from Germany. “Even German TV was making fun out of it.”

The “performance by Jemini was embarrassing not only for them but for the country as a whole,” said Eugenie Smith of England. “All the excuses in the world will not make up for lack of talent.”

Well there’s always Eurovision 2004, as Mr. Wogan reminded viewers before signing off Saturday. “No qualms, we’ll be back next year,” he said.

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