Eurovision’s catataxic voting bias

Eurovision voting has catataxic conflicts I spent last night watching the Eurovision Song Contest. What a hoot! So much better than X Factor or any of the other dreary  karaoke contests that clog our screens these days. The highlights for me were:

  •     1.The moonwalking bagpipe player in a white “body condom” outfit
  •     2.Russian grannies chanting while baking cookies, cunningly arranged in height like a set of dolls.  So cute that you just want to stack them inside  each other and put them on your mantelpiece.
  •     3.A howlingly dissonant Albanian with a choux puff on her head
  •     4.A “high concept” crooner in spangled blind fold because, as his song says, “Love is Blind” (see what he did there?)
  •     5.Turks in capes channeling a “sailor bat rapist” vibe
  •     6.The perky Edward Norton clone from Moldova with some re-clocked mutant Cheeky Girls twitching frenetically in puffball skirts.

And then there was the UK entry: poor old Englebert Humperdink who came second last. How embarrassing for him. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you know. And he was wearing a pendant that Elvis gave him for luck! Cue much handwringing and navel gazing about why UK always does so badly in the competition these days.

There is an almost petulant resentment among UK viewers which can be paraphrased like this: “They are singing songs in our language, Britain is the home of the Pop song, our music industry is the best in the world and our taste makers define what is cool globally. What is more, we pay the vast proportion of the sponsorship money for the contest. So why does no one vote for the UK? Those ungrateful wretches….”

It not too hard to spot the reason why the UK does not win much anymore. It is down to the two key rules in the voting system

  1. you can’t vote for the country you currently live in
  2. Each country’s voting weight is equal – regardless of population size.

Both these rules have a catataxic angle: a conflict between individual (level one) and country (level 2).The first rule introduces an expatriate bias. If you assume that everyone wants their own country to win, then expat votes are counted and local votes are not. If everyone is a partisan voter then it just becomes an expat census poll. How many British expatriates are there in Serbia? How many Serbian expats in Britain? Multicultural countries have a disadvantage. The second rule gives a big bias to small countries. Each citizen in San Marino (population 30k) has a vote that is worth 2,000 times more than the vote of a UK citizen(population 60m). If you combine the effect of both rules then the winning strategy is clear. Imagine you are in a recently fragmented country – say a place that has recently been divided into four smaller countries.  You will have lots of ‘expats’ on either side of the border and your overall country voting power has increased by a factor of four.

So how can the UK win – simple! Enter as four separate countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – the cross border effect will mean we all end up voting for each other. Here is an unexpected upside if Scotland wins its independence.  Better still let’s add in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man as separate entities – the UN recognises them as such. Hell, let’s go all the way and do it on a county by county basis. After all Hampshire has a bigger population than Estonia, Montenegro, Cyprus and four other Eurovision entrants….

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