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Olly Alexander addresses ‘extreme’ remarks from fans on Israel’s Eurovision inclusion | Ents & Arts News

The UK’s Eurovision Song Contest representative has addressed “extreme” remarks from fans over Israel’s inclusion in the competition.

Olly Alexander was selected as this year’s representative for the UK for the popular singing competition.

It’s set to take place in Malmo, Sweden, next week but tens of thousands are expected to protest Israel’s involvement and its ongoing war in Gaza.

Alexander, the Years & Years singer, has found himself facing criticism from some who called for him to withdraw amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Queers for Palestine circulated a letter, signed by thousands including actors Indya Moore, Brigette Lundy-Paine, and Maxine Peake calling for the It’s A Sin actor to pull out of the show.

In March, along with Irish hopeful Bambie Thug, Danish entrant Saba and other Eurovision artists, Alexander released a joint statement, backing “an immediate and lasting ceasefire” but refusing to boycott the event.

Now, speaking out in a new documentary which has followed the 33-year-old as he prepares for the show, he has described some of the comments he and other participants have faced as “very extreme”.

Bambie Thug, the Irish entrant in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. Pic: Pa
Bambie Thug, the Irish entrant in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest, who also signed a statement backing an immediate ceasefire, but is refusing to boycott the event. Pic: Pa

He said: “A lot of the contestants and myself have been having a lot of comments that are like ‘You are complicit in a genocide by taking part in Eurovision’ which is quite extreme. It’s very extreme.

“I understand where that sentiment is coming from but I think it’s not correct.

“It’s an incredibly complicated political situation, one that I’m not qualified to speak on.

“The backdrop to this is actual immense suffering. It’s a humanitarian crisis, a war.

“It just so happens there’s a song contest going on at the same time that I’m a part of.”

Speaking in the BBC’s documentary titled Olly Alexander’s Road To Eurovision ’24, he continued saying that people should boycott Eurovision if they didn’t feel comfortable watching and he respected their decision – but would be taking part himself.

He added: “My plan is to just focus on putting on a good performance in Malmo.

“My team, everyone’s worked so hard, and we’re in the final stretch now.”

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Earlier in the week, Alexander broke down crying during an interview with The Times when discussing the pressure he had come under for participating in Eurovision.

He told the paper he knew a number of signatories of the petition against him, and none had reached out to him.

He said: “This is so much bigger than me and Eurovision, it really is. But, obviously, I wish there wasn’t a war or this insane humanitarian crisis.

“I wish for peace and I have found this experience, at times, extremely … I’ve just felt really sad and distressed.”

Olly Alexander. Pic: PA
Pic: PA

Speaking on Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, deputy director general of the European Broadcasting Union who organises Eurovision, Jean Philip De Tender, defended Israel’s inclusion in the competition.

He said: “We do understand the concerns and deeply held views around the war in the Middle East.

“The song contest is a music event organised and co-produced by 37 public broadcasters, it’s not a competition between nations or governments.

“Our governing bodies reviewed the participation of Kan [Israel’s public broadcasting corporation] and found that they met all of the competing rules.”

Phillips pointed out incidences when Kan came under fire for their broadcasting.

This included, he said, when Kan published a video of children singing, in the public broadcaster’s own words, for the “annihilation of Gaza” and when one of their presenters was seen writing “I want to send the people of Gaza artillery shells”.

Mr De Tender said they had been in contact with Kan about the content they published and their editorial output, and had expressed concern on occasion.

He added that Eurovision had competition rules which they had to follow, and taking action beyond these rules to exclude Kan would have been a “political decision as such which we cannot take”.

Boris Johnson’s Downing Street decorator addresses ‘missed opportunity’ | Politics News

The designer who refurbished Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat has spoken out about the “missed opportunity” to promote British craftwork after being caught up in ‘Partygate’ and the scandal around how the work was funded.

Lulu Lytle, founder of design and manufacturing firm Soane Britain, has also said in an interview that the reported £840-per-roll cost of gold leaf wallpaper is not accurate, insisting it was nowhere near that expensive – and nor was it made of gold leaf.

She has said the now infamous wallpaper for the flat above Number 11 Downing Street housing then-prime minister Boris Johnson and his then fiance Carrie Symonds cost £120 per roll – the industry standard – and it was yellow, not gold.

Ms Lytle – who became known as “Carrie’s interior designer” – said she had never met Mr Johnson or his fiance before she received a cold call from Ms Symonds one day asking her to oversee the refurbishment of the Downing Street residence, commissioned in early 2020 and funded by the official grant of £30,000 given to all prime ministers to revamp their living space.

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“Carrie had seen some fabrics of ours that had been commissioned for the state bedrooms at Chequers and liked them very much,” Ms Lytle told the Wall Street Journal of the prime minister’s official country residence in Buckinghamshire.

“She asked me to help with their Downing Street flat, not only because she liked the Soane aesthetic, but because our supply chains are so transparently English.”

Lulu Lytle, pictured in May 2019
Decorator Lulu Lytle

When the bill for the requested work overshot the official grant, Ms Lytle said she was assured a trust would make up the gap, as had been the case for Chequers.

“I was totally reassured it was being set up, but it was taking time,” she said, but a year later it emerged in press reports that not only had the refurbishment cost over six times the official allowance but it had also been funded by Tory party donor Lord David Brownlow.

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The scandal erupted at the same time as it emerged parties had been taking place in Downing Street – and Ms Lytle herself was even investigated for allegedly attending Mr Johnson’s birthday party in Downing Street, for which the ex-PM was later fined.

However, after speaking to investigating officers, she was not fined, having been in Downing Street for work.

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Boris Johnson said that he was ‘very, very surprised; to receive a fine after the events of ‘Partygate’

As for Mr Johnson, although he was referred to the Electoral Commission over the saga of the redecoration and the Tory party was fined, his ethics advisor, Lord Christopher Geidt, concluded that he did not break the ministerial code, and he settled the bill for the work privately.

Nonetheless, she recounted the ordeal as having a very difficult impact on herself, her family, and her business.

She says that what upset her the most was the “missed opportunity” to highlight British craftwork.

“Downing Street could, and in my opinion should, be the most fantastic showcase for British makers – I hoped and believed it would provide a springboard for conversations about UK manufacturing, or honest and transparent supply chains,” she said.

“It was such a missed opportunity,” she added.

Ms Lytle is now launching a flagship outlet on New York’s Upper East Side, expanding properly into the US for the first time.

Gary Lineker back on air as Alan Shearer addresses ‘difficult situation’ after tweet row | UK News

Gary Lineker has returned to his presenting duties on the BBC, with football pundit Alan Shearer speaking about the “difficult situation” he and his colleagues faced after a row over impartiality.

Lineker was forced off air in a row over a tweet criticising the government’s migration policy, with his co-presenters standing down from Match Of The Day last weekend in solidarity.

Shearer was speaking as he joined Micah Richards and Lineker – who opened the show by saying it was “great to be here” – on Saturday evening for FA Cup coverage, a week after viewers had to make do with a severely limited version of the programme due to the dispute.

He said: “I just need to clear up and wanted to say how upset we were for all the audiences who missed out on last weekend.

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‘Hopefully BBC moving beyond Lineker row’

“It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned and through no fault of their own, some really great people on TV and in radio were put in an impossible situation, and that wasn’t fair.

“So it’s good to get back to some sort of normality and be talking about football.”

Lineker responded: “Absolutely, echo those sentiments.”

Tweets posted by Lineker, 62, had compared the language used by government to launch its new asylum seeker policy to that used in 1930s Germany.

The row worsened after Lineker’s BBC sport colleagues, including Shearer, walked out in solidarity.

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Richards had not been due to appear that weekend but had said on social media that if he had been, he would have done the same.

That meant Match Of The Day could only air for 20 minutes and without accompanying commentary or analysis, and without even its theme tune.

Sunday’s edition ran for just 15 minutes.

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After the dispute, BBC director-general Tim Davie apologised and said an independent review had been launched looking into the corporation’s social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers like Lineker.

Before returning to live presenting as part of the BBC’s coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley, Lineker tweeted a number of times.

He wrote “back to the Saturday job” in the morning, before a selfie at the stadium captioned “Ah the joys of being allowed to stick to football”.

He also posted a photo of himself with Richards and Shearer, describing them as “teammates”