It turns out the Cold War did not end with either a bang or a whimper in Europe, but with a series of feeble melodies that come invested with the strongest doses of motherland prejudice and rivalry. Those who doubt it have not been paying attention to the Eurovision Song Contest, now in its 54th year, a competition whose chief virtue is to demonstrate the standard failure of political philosophy to rival sequins and bad music as an indicator of the moral outlook of nations. Forget Machiavelli, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Marx, Lenin or Ortega y Gasset. The world-dominating perspectives of Italy, Ireland, France, Germany, Russia and Spain – to name but six of this year's 42 participating countries – are to be represented by assorted ragamuffins with plentiful false eyelashes and voices as dainty as a fortnight of shelling in Dubrovnik. Every year it gets madder, but 2009, which is being hosted by Russia, must surely be the biggest, campest carnival yet, with nations threatening by the half-hour to storm off or to scratch out the eyes of their neighbours, all in the name of peace, understanding and postwar unification.