DAN WOOTTON: For 10 years BBC bosses tried to kill off our Eurovision hopes

For 10 years BBC bosses tried to kill off our Eurovision hopes and blame it all on Brexit and Boris. But our glorious Spaceman Sam Ryder proved, as usual, the Britain-hating Beeb got it all wrong

The insufferable snobs at the BBC spent the best part of the last ten years trying to permanently kill off Britain’s chances of winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

The argument I would always hear around Beeb headquarters in London’s W1A was that the UK could enter a duet by Ed Sheeran and Adele but we would still languish on nul points.

So, instead, they gave up on us altogether, buying into the London metropolitan group think that Eurovision is something to be embarrassed about and looked down upon, despite it being one of the corporation’s highest rated shows every damn year.

Sam Ryder, who finished second in the final of the Eurovision 2022 Song Contest, arrives at Wogan House in London for a live interview on the Zoe Ball’s breakfast show today. Sam helped Britain get its best result in years

First, they wheeled out old legends like Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck with zero social media following to sing depressing duds.

Then they spent eight years sacrificing on the Eurovision altar a host of well-meaning no marks with limited talent who you’ll never hear of again.


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Surie, Joe and Jake, Electro Velvet, Mollie? Anyone? Nope, didn’t think so.

There was no longer any sort of competition or public vote to choose our entry – it felt like the Britain-hating BBC picked at random a charisma-less singer with the least chance of winning.

The last two competitions proved the nadir, with Michael Rice finishing dead last with the forgettable Bigger Than Us in 2019 and, following a Covid enforced year off, James Newman’s tuneless Embers – our worst ever entry – also ending up bottom with the dreaded nul points humiliation in 2021.

Hapless BBC executives continued to argue there’s simply nothing we can do; Europe hates us because of Brexit and Boris, there’s no point wasting our time and money even pretending to try.

On Saturday in Turin, those clueless Beeb boneheads were finally proven wrong.

The corporation’s defeatism was a total fallacy.

The instant Eurovision classic Spaceman by Sam Ryder – an Essex rising star, signed to record label Parlophone, with a massive social media following, especially on the influential platform TikTok – won the jury vote and came second overall.

The cruel reality for Brits like me who have been waiting quarter of a century since our last win by Katrina and the Waves in 1997 is that, if it weren’t for an unprecedented European war seeing the public sympathy vote throughout the continent rightly generating huge points for the Ukrainian entry, the UK would have been in with a decent shot.

Perhaps you’re thinking the BBC finally got it right and should be praised for such a dramatic turnaround in their thinking?

Far from it.

Our second-place finish from nil pois the year before – the most dramatic turnaround in Eurovision history – had nothing to do with them.

This year, the BBC essentially sublet out our Eurovision entry to one of Britain’s biggest names in pop music.

You probably haven’t heard of Ben Mawson of Tap Music, but he’s one of the most successful hitmakers operating in British music, who was responsible for launching the glittering career of Dua Lipa (she recently dumped him as her manager which made me think that if there’s one thing uniting popstars it’s their lack of loyalty to the people who made them famous).

Mawson began to question the BBC on how and why they’d ended up picking such dire acts in the past few years, asking those responsible: ‘What’s your process? There is so much good pop music that comes out of this country, why is the platform not being properly exploited?’

He pointed to Italy’s success last year with snort scandal rockers Måneskin, now established as a credible act.

Sam Ryder, representing United Kingdom, performs on stage during the Grand Final show of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night in Turin

Sam Ryder, representing United Kingdom, performs on stage during the Grand Final show of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night in Turin

After a series of conversations up the BBC food chain, Mawson and his company Tap agreed to take on the entire selection process from the corporation.

The record company Parlophone quadrupled the budget, so that Sam’s performance on the night could be a truly camp spectacle.

Crucially, Mawson wasn’t buying into the BBC’s fatalism, insisting of our previous bad performances: ‘Ultimately we can’t blame politics.’

He added to Music Week: ‘The more we got into it, the more we realised that maybe it was less about politics and more about us not taking it seriously.’

That’s the exact argument I’ve been making for the past decade.

Now, I appreciate there is a school of thought that the changing geopolitics in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have benefitted the UK this year. After all, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been clear he views Boris Johnson as the war-torn country’s biggest ally.

I don’t really buy into that argument ­– the UK’s post-Brexit status in Europe is entrenched.

What Sam Ryder and Spaceman proved is that, for Eurovision voters, a good song by a compelling popstar trumps anything else.

I mean, we got first place and 12 points from the French jury, a feat I never believed I would see in my lifetime!

It’s now essential that the BBC continue to allow their hands-off strategy to continue for years to come – Tap had previously been discussing forming a British super group of massive solo stars to perform our song, which could be a brilliant idea for next year.

Sadly, I have my doubts about whether the BBC will be on board with this strategy of success by leaving it to the experts.

Our previous Eurovision failure fits with the corporation’s broader world view that Brexit Britain is something to be disdained.

As Sam put it: ‘This stigma that we carry at home that the UK isn’t liked is something we choose to repeat – it’s nothing more than a negative thought pattern. We’re just torturing ourselves. It’s time we gave it up.’

That’s why I will be forever grateful for Spaceman – one great song has just blasted the UK’s Eurovision chances into a new galaxy, whether the Beeb likes it or not.

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