Fraser Nelson

Politics or neglect? Why the UK came last at Eurovision

  • From Spectator Life
James Newman singing his way to nul points at last night’s Eurovision Song Contest. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Yet again, Britain’s Eurovision entry has come last getting nul points from tout le monde. Yet again, politics is being blamed – but wrongly. The UK was simply outsung and outclassed by smaller countries who made more effort. Eurovision has always been a collision between politics, music and culture. Winners game that system, coming up with an act that crosses dozens of linguistic and national boundaries. It’s tricky. But Britain stopped trying some time ago. The BBC chooses our entry and doesn’t bother with a contest. It also struggles to pick (and prep) Eurovision winners. As a result, every year, Britain sends some unprepared soul to perish on the world stage.

A strange, outraged jingoism usually follows Britain’s Eurovision flops. The voting is obviously political, we say. The whole show is trash, why do we even compete? But let’s look at some basics. This year, the BBC sent in last year’s contestant (most other countries went to the trouble of refreshing). James Newman is a charismatic and talented songwriter, who has little experience performing. He was good. But being good is not enough for Eurovision, now the world’s most-watched cultural event with millions voting. To wow this multinational, multilingual, multicultural crowd takes the kind of imagination and effort that the BBC is unwilling or unable to provide. Its speciality is news and drama: schlager is not its thing.  

It wasn’t Newman’s fault. He was hopelessly under-equipped with underwhelming choreography and a dismal set. Even Bulgaria’s set was in a different league to ours. Iceland has the same population as Clapham and its entry managed a well-deserved top five. 

Iceland has a smaller population than Clapham and its entry managed a well-deserved top five

The BBC pays so much money to Eurovision that the UK entry goes straight to the final: most others have to go through semi-finals. This competition-dodging ultimately leaves the UK act unprepared. The

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