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Britain’s singer for Europe comes last; welcome him home with cheers!

Saturday May 25 2019
Michael Rice

The United Kingdom's Michael Rice performs the song "Bigger than Us" during the Grand Final of the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 at Expo Tel Aviv on May 18, 2019, in the Israeli coastal city. PHOTO | JACK GUEZ | AFP

By GERRY LOUGHRAN

The British seem to have a special place in their hearts for losers, which is just as well because we have had plenty of practice at it.

Think taking penalties against German football teams, making friends with our European neighbours, winning stars for our restaurant cooking. Above all, check our record in the Eurovision Song Contest.

CONFETTI

Last week, Michael Rice singing Bigger Than Us came plumb last out of 26 competing nations in the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv. He scored a paltry 15 points compared to the 492 racked up by the winner, Duncan Laurence, of the Netherlands.

In doing so, Michael followed a hallowed British tradition. We have not won Eurovision in 22 years or finished in the top 10 in the past decade. Nevertheless, more than eight million Brits tuned in to watch the national humiliation on television.

What’s more, when Michael, aged 21, returned home to his native town of Hartlepool on the northeast coast, he received a hero’s welcome, with Union flags, confetti and cheers. Happily, he burbled that it had been a great experience and he enjoyed every bit of it.

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Maybe we should qualify that reference to Brits loving losers. They love good losers and that Michael undoubtedly is.

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Ken Macharia, a gay Kenyan rugby player who is fighting deportation to Kenya, called last week on the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to end three years in legal “limbo” by deciding his asylum case.

Mr Macharia is seeking refuge in Britain, saying he fears violence in Kenya because of his sexual orientation. He was released from an immigration centre last November after more than 100,000 people signed a petition to stop him being deported.

“Before I started the process I was thinking the UK is a champion of human rights,” he said. “But I was surprised at the treatment I received. It has been extremely hostile.” He has been ineligible to work for nearly a year.

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Between July 2013 and August 2016, a mother of two, Jayne Kitching, claimed £88,000 in various benefits from the British government. What she did not reveal was that she was living in Spain at the time.

Grimsby crown court heard that she received income support, disability living allowance and carer’s allowance, although her children had been taken into care in Spain.

Judge Abdul Iqbal questioned why the UK authorities had not realised Ms Kitching was in Spain. He gave her a 12-month suspended prison sentence and said, “I hope you are ashamed.”

Her defending solicitor said Mrs Kitching was repaying the benefits at a rate of £7.65 per month. At this rate, it would take another 958 years to clear the debt.

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Apart from losers, what else do we love about Britain? An official government poll asked people across the country what made them proud to be British, offering 12 options to choose from.

Top of the poll, with 53 per cent of the vote, was our countryside and scenery, with our free-to-all National Health Service a mere point behind.

Surprisingly, just 17 per cent of respondents named the monarchy as making them proud to be British.

Recent indications were that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were growing in the affection of people as they became older and frailer. However, there has been much exposure for the younger members of the royal family recently and perhaps citizens are slightly bored.

Third in the list was history (35 per cent), meaning, I suppose, how we have conducted ourselves down the years, followed by the people (24 per cent) and education and science (20 pc).

Architecture and historic buildings earned 15 per cent, with multiculturalism and arts/culture on 13 per cent each and sporting achievements at 12 per cent. Although politicians and school teachers talk about it a lot, our democratic tradition netted only 11 per cent, which perhaps is not surprising, given the unpleasantness and tensions around Brexit. The wooden spoon was awarded to our legal system with 10 per cent of votes, while one per cent of respondents said they weren’t proud of any of the options suggested.

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Others on the British:

From a French comedian: “What is black and white and red all over? A hideously overcooked English steak, ruined further by the addition of ketchup and mayonnaise.”

From a Swedish lady: “What do you call a good-looking guy in the UK? A tourist.”

From George Bernard Shaw: “The English are not a very spiritual people so they invented the game of cricket to provide some idea of eternity.”

On the other hand, here is what the late British novelist Anthony (A Clockwork Orange) Burgess had to say about the French:

"A nation of frog-eaters and dancing masters.”

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