Culture House Daily Specdata

Exclusive poll: Brits think we’re doomed in Eurovision (and blame the BBC)

9 May 2014

Seven million of us will be tuning in at 8pm tomorrow night for the Eurovision final, rising to nine million when the UK number is played. But what do we expect to see, and do we think it’s rigged? The Spectator’s Culture House Daily blog, in conjunction with YouGov, is able to give you an exclusive poll of 1,860 Brits, seeing what the nation thinks about world’s most-watched cultural event.

Seventeen years of hurt has led Britain to think that we just can’t win this thing anymore. A pitiful 1 per cent of those polled think Molly’s Children of the Universe will take the crown tomorrow night, a low figure given that the bookies have her at 8-1. Just over half of us think she’ll finish bottom of the table. I’d place myself amongst the 8 per cent who expect her in the top ten: word is that she’s brushed up her stage performance.

Next comes the biggest reason that Brits think we’ll bomb: only a quarter of us have heard her song. Many countries’ Eurovision entry has hit the top of the native charts – the Swedish and Dutch entries got to no1, Denmark to no2. But Molly peaked at no.48 in the UK charts – as you’d expect, given that there was zero public consultation in choosing the song. The Swedish entry from Sanna Neilson (below) has had eight million listens on Spotify – Molly has had just 128,000.

The most successful Eurovision numbers tend to beSannaVisken picked by an open vote, in contests with mass popularity like Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. In Britain, an anonymous BBC bureaucrat nominates our candidate, similar to the procedure used in the old Soviet InterVision Song Contest. Molly is our best entry for many years, but she did not have the advantage of being selected in an open contest – tomorrow will be the first time she has ever sought a vote. Compare that to the favourite, Sweden’s Sanna, who made six attempts at winning the nomination via a television jury before she was selected.

I argued in The Spectator last year that the BBC should hold an open contest to find our entrant, rather than lazily ask one of its bureaucrats pick an entrant and have Radio 2 plays it. Strikingly, Brits think by a margin of six-to-one that it’s time that the BBC let the public choose (which they once did). Here’s the poll.

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And the same proportion think that if the BBC did open the contest, we’d have a better chance of winning. (Something the Nordic nations have known for years). Molly is up against a bunch of thoroughbreds, groomed for this one particular race. And she’s never had a practise run – not even a chance to compete in the semi finals (the BBC pay so much to Eurovision that the UK entry is guaranteed a place in the final, no matter how dire).

Eurovision is that it’s more than just a song contest. It’s a collision of politics, culture, zeitgeist, enmity and fraternity. YouGov asked:

‘Some people think that countries voting politically means it is now impossible for certain countries to win the Eurovision song contest. Other people think countries lose because their entries to the competition just haven’t been good enough. Which of the following best represents your view?’

Brits are wise to the game:

And now, on to the sad case of the Tolmachevy twins, who are representing Russia at time when Putin is munching Ukraine. This pair of butter-wouldn’t-melt twins deliver a lyric that is a bit too close to home:

‘Living on the edge / closer to the crime / cross the line a step at a time’.

Or send in unbadged troops / destablise the region / then call for autonomy. Anyway, the sisters were booed in Tuesday night’s semis in Copenhagen – so YouGov asked if they’re facing unfair discrimination.

‘More specifically, do you think the recent situation in Ukraine will impact on how well Russia does at the Eurovision song contest?’

Of course, many of us watch Eurovision for the grudge matches. And how many points do we expect Ukraine to give Russia?

This, I fear, is a bit simplistic. Ukraine is split between Slavophile and Europhile – Crimea, for example, is mostly Russian-speaking and is still covered by Ukrainian telecom networks, so its votes will count as Ukrainian. One of the many layers of complexity we’ll see tomorrow night.

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Show comments
  • Uwe Brandt

    Yes I think the Entry from Great Britain deserved a better place at the end. Unfortunately Molly performed from the very last position. So that was tough.
    Such a pity, it s a great Song, great Arrangement and great Message.

  • AtMyDeskToday

    I heard the British entry for the first time last night and thought…Ehhh, this is our best chance in years. Who chose this rubbish?

  • Szymon Baranowski

    Why English juries doomed Polish votes while true televotes of common English ppl and polish imigrants were giving 1 place for Poland from England?
    Some serious issues of antipolonism and discrimination you have there. A selective discrimination because it wouldn’t happen to a gay song or muslim song or jewish song for sure…
    England didn’t won because you chose singer from noowhere and too much american song… IMO Ireland should have made it to finals because they at least added some of their culture to national song lol

    • BBC Farage

      True, Polish song was top three in tele-voters ranking in quite a few countries. I cannot blame jurors for slating it though.
      Polar ranking by jurors versus the public was surprisingly common, not only in the case of Polish song.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Oh come now, do we care at all, Fraser? A lot of people care about our paltry performances at the footy, not me but a lot of people. Wiser heads follow the cricket and back Joe Root to captain a winning side around 2017 or so. But Eurovision? Dearie dearie me!

  • paulus

    God you must have nothing to do. If you invite the wedish girl to your next garden party I want an invite.

  • dado_trunking

    The Eurovision Contest is designed to unite and increase international cultural awareness on a basic level. It succeeds as much as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games do in sport. That is why Austria and Armenia will go far this year.

  • amicus

    I never (NEVER) watch this non-event. If asked to choose the most supremely unimportant topic of this or any other day, this bore-fest would be one of my first choices.

  • rtj1211

    Eurovision takes its lead from FIFA World Cup hosting competitions.

    I don’t know why anyone gives a damn who wins, because the whole thing is a shambolic fixed farce from start to finish.

  • Chris Hobson


  • Sandra Arts-Binnendijk

    It may be interesting to know that there was also “zero public consultation” in The Netherlands with regard to the song chosen. And when it was first presented, public opinion was divided between “nice, but boring” and “horrible, and boring”. However, the song apparently grew on the Dutch! So a lack of interest isn’t necessarily related to how closely the public was involved in the song selection. In fact, when we DID have a pre-Eurovision-competetion, we came up with horrible entries that didn’t make it pas the semis for 8 years in a row.

  • William Clark

    Please do not vote for UKIP – they will not win – it really is a vote for Milliband – please vote Conservative – it is the only party which will a) give us a chance of a vote on membership of the EU and b) actually do something about the reform of Europe if we do not leave and c) make an attempt to run the economy in a responsible manner.

    • Vote UKIP

      a) Fool me once, etc.
      b) Good luck with that.
      c) An attempt? Exactly right, and not a very good one: the national debt is on course to have doubled by the time of the next General Election under the coalition government.

      • BBC Farage

        To be fair, this is fallout of the long period of the inadequate regulation and state assured laissez faire, presided over by New Labour.
        Now we are in the spiral of debt.

    • BBC Farage

      It’s more important to mobilise people to vote at all! UKiP is winning on inertia and lack of information. Most of their successes are predicated on low or extremely low turnout.

  • Paul Hughes

    The truly sad thing is that a Brexit wouldn’t free us from this terrible sh1te.

  • David Maguire

    I honestly think the UK has a really good song this year. The UK, Finland and Switzerland are my favourites. You think it’s bad with the BBC? Try having RTE organize your entry, we have a public vote but we still aren’t doing well. Our song was decent enough this year but of course RTE had to fill it with a ”traditional Irish theme” and Irish dancers. No wonder we didn’t make it to the final. UK you’re very lucky not to have RTE, I hope we give yee 12 points. Best of Luck from Ireland

    • Kaine

      RTE sabotage themselves deliberately because hosting the thing would bankrupt them. Did you never see that episode of Father Ted?

  • Smithersjones2013

    Who cares? It is a dismal public demonstration of the dysfunctionality and futility of Europhilia. Better it was scrapped

  • you_kid

    Never was the Eurovision Song Contest more about politics than today. The underlying political message of our competition entry is obvious.
    In Britain, the plebiscite which is too lazy to switch energy providers but rants on about energy poverty must be forced by an ‘anonymous BBC bureaucrat’ to free itself from outdated and failing power cartels.
    That is sad in a way but it is also comforting. Killing it softly – with a song.

  • Jez

    Just read your piece in the Telegraph regarding Ukraine / Russia.

    You’re going on about ‘doom’ in the Eurovisions?

    I’m pretty sure you need to have another look and reassess; a. what’s important & b. what really is happening out there.

    Maybe Putin is playing a game- but i ask you; Who in their right mind would continue on such a policy of belligerence, as the Western backed interim Govt. has today, on Victory day of all days, in SE Ukraine- unless they are attempting a policy utter provocation?

    The UK Corporate media seem to be selling their souls.

    But let’s guffaw at the boos Russia gets in Eurovision shall we?

    • Jez

      There doesn’t seem to be any attempt to approach what’s happening in the Spectator so i’ll post this;

      This happened this morning.

      Give your head a shake Fraser- look at the unarmed guy getting shot. The civilian with his brains blown out also- now think about what day this has been brought to that place in reference to it being the 9th May.

      What is going on?

  • Hexhamgeezer

    I shall probably tune in to play ‘It’s a bit like…(insert plagiarised tune here)’

  • Tom Chance

    9 million Brits, 15% of the entire population, will be tuning in to watch Britain lose.

    A hearty warm-up ahead of the World Cup in June.

    • Ian Walker

      I didn’t know Britain were in the World Cup. Will they meet England in the semis?

      • Tom Chance

        Har har.

        Might have a bit more hope with Gareth Bale playing, mind.

  • Tony Quintus

    You really don’t do any research at all do you Fraser, the BBC has at several points in time attempted to use the open selection method, the most recent version only being scrapped in 2010 (so Lloyd Webber could have another show), BBC corporate have only been picking the candidate for the last 4 years.

    • El_Sid

      And the reason they did so was that the Great British Public have a terrible record in picking Eurovision contenders. The Noughties were our worst Eurovision decade by far, and coincided with the technology to allow direct voting by phone. The likes of Scooch, Jemini and Andy Abraham were all picked by public vote – you want to go back to that system Fraser?

  • UniteAgainstSocialism

    I’d rather listen to the noise my farts make in the bath than listen to the Eurovision song contest.

    Vote UKIP this year, next year, every year

    • Tony Quintus

      Eurovision has nothing to do with the EU, it is a construct of the European Broadcasting Union, which is completely unreleated, and in fact much older.
      Even if we left the EU tomorrow the BBC would not be quitting the EBU.
      And you wonder why UKIP supporters are attacked for being uninformed.

      • UniteAgainstSocialism

        UKIP are going to scrap the telly tax and privatise the beeb. No telly tax from Britain to finance the eurovision and it’ll collapse quicker than LibLabCon membership.

        I wont resort to ad hominen attacks like you about you being uninformed because we kippers are better than you; so you can just eff off instead. 😉

        • Ooh!MePurse!

          Ukip are not going to do anything because they won’t win any seats. If you vote Ukip you will end up with socialism.

          • UniteAgainstSocialism

            oh excuse me, i presume u must have cyrstal balls and can see into the future.

            Vote LibLabCon get socialism.
            Vote UKIP get UKIP

        • Tony Quintus

          I repeat, uninformed and it appears deluded to boot.
          UKIP aren’t going to scrap anything, they can’t even come up with a defence polict without stealing from, of all people, the Lib Dems.

        • Chris Morriss

          If only they would scrap the licence fee! I might well decide to purchase my first-ever TV if that were to happen.

      • Rich Mill

        The Eurovision is what makes Europe great and unites us all under one banner. A great example of European unity. I watch it every year and it’s never been just about the music. It is an advocate of showing the diversity of European culture and well as unity through common goals.
        It’s racists like you that give the British public such a bad name. UKIP is just another name for the BNP. Please don’t comment unless you have something nice and informed to say. UKIP make lots of promises they simply can’t keep to. however, this is not the forum for politics.

    • timinsingapore

      ‘I’d rather listen to the noise my farts make in the bath than listen to the Eurovision song contest.’

      I fear this tells us a great deal about UKIP.

  • goneunderground

    Fraser Nelson what are you doing worrying about this? Apart from it being a Euro self congratulation exercise the quality of music is laughable. The Brits have been making music far better than the general standard of Eurovision since er the beginning of music and so why bother with it?

    • Anthony

      So then why do Eurovision fans find that nearly every single country at Eurovision used Swedish composers at least once, and not taking advantage with British composers then?

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