May 08

5 Point Plan For The UK To Win* Eurovision

FT/40 comments • 781 views

*where win = “maybe come a respectable fifth”

The BIG T has had enough of Eurovision because the UK keeps doing atrociously in it, and he is leading a chorus of RAGE in the press saying we should pull out. I suspect the majority of the 7 million people who watch it don’t give much of a monkeys about whether Britain does well or not, they are just entertained by the spectacle and (who knows) maybe even the music, which this year was generally pretty good. But in case people do care here are my suggestions for how we might do a bit better.

First off there are two basic reasons that we don’t perform well. One is what gets described as “bloc voting”: the main reason for this is that because Europe is a big continent with lots of fairly recently defined borders there are a great many people who don’t live in the countries they think of as “home” (or at least feel a strong cultural allegiance to). A Bosnian Serb voting for Serbia is not voting for them as part of a big conspiracy because Bosnia loves Serbia (they clearly don’t!), he’s voting for them because he thinks of himself (partly or wholly) as Serbian – just like if I was staying in France at Eurovision time, I could vote for the UK. There’s really absolutely nothing that can be done about this, and it’s not as if we’re nobly above the fray: there’s a reason that the crap Polish entry picked up votes from us. The best strategy the UK can adopt is to put an entry in that will pick up 5, 6 and 7 points across the board, rather than hoping for many 10s and 12s.

The second reason is that our entries are out of step with the kind of pop that appeals to voters in the new Europe. Terry can roll his eyes all he likes at people voting for the Bosnian or Spanish comedy entries but the fact is we handed ten points to the Latvians on the basis that pirates r funneh, and at least Spain had a reasonably hot beat. Also our two previous entries were comedy novelty pop – DJ Daz I loved, Scooch I despised, but in neither case was I particularly surprised at their poor showing. So this is something we CAN do something about, since British and Anglophone pop sells well in all these places that are voting for one another.

So anyway, here’s the five point plan: nothing that people haven’t said before, I’m not pretending this is startlingly original analysis, it’s just a pre-emptive strike against the moaning I’m going to encounter at work tomorrow really!

1. DITCH “MAKING YOUR MIND UP”: The British public can’t pick a winner and we can make up the phoneline cash another way (see below).

2. BRING IN SOMEONE ACTUALLY FAMOUS: We have a huge advantage that we never use – we have famous pop stars who actually sell. NOT Sonia. NOT Andy, sweetheart though he is. Not using famous people is a big disadvantage because Johnny Balkan knows perfectly well who the top Brit performers are and is well aware we are selling him a particularly mangy pup every year.

3. WRITE A SONG THAT DOESN’T PATRONISE THE EUROPEAN AUDIENCE: Our tracks are always either smirky campathons or hoof-and-grin numbers that are ten years out of date. There’s nothing “unfair” about countries not voting for songs they have zero affinity for. Which “old school” European countries did best this year? Greece, with a Britney-style dance-pop number, and Norway, with a very canny Mark Ronson-lite style. These were based on ‘Western’ pop that actually sells in Eastern Europe, and so should our track be.

4. PAY MORE ATTENTION TO STAGECRAFT: Our staging always seems to be second-rate: I can’t remember a thing about the Andy A performance, except that the man himself tried his best in a pretty boring setting. The big change in Eurovision in the last 5 years hasn’t been musical, it’s been the largely unironic adoption of very striking, modern choreography. Circus is massive in continental Europe, including Blocvotistan, and I can think of 6 or 7 entries this year whose staging was terrific – not even including the corny Russian rollerskater, though unquestionably that helped win it for them.

5. ENTER THE SEMI-FINALS: The UK getting a bye to the final is a staggering disadvantage – the semis, assuming you’ve ticked the other boxes needed to get through them, are i. a usefully high-pressure dress rehearsal to iron out what’s not working, ii. a primer for the main audience especially in yr YouTube era, iii. are watched by precisely the same audience who are most committed to Eurovision and thus most likely to vote in the main show. We have to be in them, “big four” or no big four, and it gives us a way to make the phoneline money we lose by ditching Making Your Mind Up. (NB if there’s a politically survivable way to stop funding it without destroying the contest I’d be all for that).

As well as all that I’d also try to publicise the entry better before the show – especially among our expat communities in France, Spain, and various tax havens. If we did all that and still came 20th, then fine, it’s because everyone hates us and we can pull up the drawbridge and sulk along with Uncle Terry.


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  1. 31

    “Katrina & the Waves” <--- not to be mean but surely this is some steps below the level of "at least they successfully ran the value-judgement gauntlet of SOME extant constituency" that i have in mind: ie the choice consciously attempted to address a specific issue but kinda sorta veers off right when it comes to the solution (were K&tW for example ever ANYONE'S favourite popgroup? possibly the answer here is YES OF COURSE -- to me they always seemed more a 'middle way choice careful not to offend key constuencies)

  2. 32

    animals: bah the eastern europes would cheat there too, with heard of cuet yak and sturgeons and bears and etc

  3. 33

    er yes that’d be HERDS (said the fellow putting together a large paper on the need for org-wide sub-editing and proofing)

  4. 34
    DJ Punctum on 27 May 2008 #


    a) were no doubt the first act asked to say yes;
    b) probably everyone’s favourite Newmarket-based expatriate American pop group. Simon Barnes to thread for confirmation plz.

  5. 35

    yes of course the other downside to my OBVIOUSLY BRILLIANT PLANS is that it’s the acts themselves that have been leery, at all levels, of the accolade — at least since the days of Lord Cliff of Tastic. Doubtless if I go round grabbing lapels and EXPLAINING DEMENTEDLY this leeriness will dissipate

  6. 36
    DJ Punctum on 27 May 2008 #

    Well, since the days of Motherhood of Bran, when The Man decided that Britain could just put together a floating pool of session singers, give them a different funny name every year and stick with the oompah-oompah business until the scheme REBOUNDED on them but SB is twitching.

  7. 37
    CarsmileSteve on 27 May 2008 #

    we laff in the face of Spoiler Bunny away from popular ;)

    are you mainly talking about 76-81 Marcello? BARDO (still my favourite UK entry) didn’t rly fit this mould post-bucks fizz did they? mind you i couldn’t name another UK entry from then ’til sonia so perhaps i am proving my own point here. um, that one with smantha janus in, err michael ball?

  8. 38
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Note of course that BARDO with their NEW POP EUROVISION TRIUMPH (written and produced by Andy Hill and Nicola Martin, just like Bucks Fizz) were CRIMINALLY robbed of their RIGHTFUL VICTORY by nauseatingly niggling reminders of Britain’s then current involvement in ACTUAL WAR thus tut tut sit down and learn DIGNITY from TEENAGE MUTANT AUSTRIAN NUN singing “A Little Piss” (which, to rub the SB-excluded salt in, was the 500th number one single in Britain whereas BARDO were STOPPED at number two by Paul and Stevie living in a piano).

    Wogan took a dim view of that too.

  9. 39
    Tom on 6 Jan 2009 #

    I say, shrewd call by Marcello re. Graham N!

  10. 40
    Tom on 17 May 2009 #

    “Maybe come a respectable fifth” – job done.

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