Peter Rhodes on the axing of Eurovision, changes at Question Time and how Gordon Brown almost told a joke

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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“Bellringing practice is cancelled,” says a notice at our local church. It may not be the most chilling announcement of the month but for those of us nearby, it is serious. Believe me, those ringers need all the practice they can get.

Words cannot express my feelings at the scrapping of the Eurovision Song Contest, or at least not the sort of words I am allowed to use in this column. It could have been put out of its misery years ago on the grounds of rubbish tunes, rubbish lyrics, rubbish performances and totally rubbish and politically-motivated voting by the judges. Leaving the EU would have been the perfect moment for Britain to jump ship. In the event, the job has been done for us by a jumble of organic cells that don't even have a brain. No, not Parliament. That virus thingy.

America assures us that in dealing with the coronavirus threat, it is now “on a war footing.” So they wait three years and then join in?

I have decided to semi-isolate myself which basically involves doing very little apart from reading some of those books I always meant to but never got around to, including John O'Farrell's brilliant 2009 work, An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain. It is history punctuated with funny bits which may or may not have happened. But O'Farrell's yarn about the dour, humourless Gordon Brown planning to tell a joke at the Labour Conference, and being talked out of it at the last minute, has the ring of truth.

It was shortly after President Bill Clinton got into a spot of bother with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Brown's untold gag was: “In Downing Street there will be no right turns, no left turns and definitely no interns.” It made me smile and I dare say it might have won Brown a few votes.

I once interviewed Monica Lewinsky. She was engaging and sparky but I couldn't for the life of me see why the most powerful man in the world would risk everything for her.

Meanwhile, back in the real, unsmiling world of Covid-19, you may feel overwhelmed by all the statistics being pumped at us. Even so, I am grateful to the reader who points out solemnly that “three-quarters of people make up 75 per cent of the world's population.” It is almost as useful as that other observation that “people are dying today who have never died before.”

Amid all the bumf, facts, figures and conjecture, here are nine little words from a reader that may actually save us: Treat everybody you meet as though they are infected.

Question Time (BBC1) is being screened without an audience. Next step, get rid of the panel, too. So that's just Fiona, and maybe some antiques for her to talk about . . .

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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