Once again Terry Wogan is claiming that ‘political’ and ‘bloc’ voting stopped the UK from getting points in the Eurovision song contest. This may have been the case in the past, but now each country’s votes are decided by a phone poll, this seems unlikely.
I watched it with friends, and yes most of the music was terrible and not my cup of tea. But when we discussed who and how people vote, we remembered that one of us actually voted last time, for a song they liked. Who exactly is going to sit and watch and then vote for country X, because it’s an ally. As though this was going to have any impact on politics at all.
Of course there are voting blocs (countries that often vote for each other) and you can see how they measure up here. However, there’s a non-political, non-controversial explanation for these. Culture (including language, ethnicity, musical traditions) is what makes us like one song and not another. So the Ukrainians will vote for a Russian song because it’s in their language, sounds like their recent pop chart, and so on. If Westlife represented Ireland, the UK would give them 12 points too. In an ideal world, the votes available would be evenly balanced across the spread of European culture. If all the songs were equally good countries would still vote for their neighbours, but they’d all tot up the same. Any slightly better song would pick up some extra votes and then win.
Unfortunately for the UK, however, the break up of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union means there are now two blocs of countries, each with a lot of members. This has meant a lot more points to go round to the Eastern bloc and Balkan nations. This is the main reason the UK find it difficult to get points.
But… we could do well if we tried harder too. A UK song would appeal in the former USSR if it was good enough. Whereas the UK song was by a runner up in the X Factor who has since got to 18 in the singles chart, the Russian entry was an all-star affair. Dima Bilan’s done a few albums and been number one across the ex-USSR nations. He was accompanied by Evgeni Plushenko, a figure skater who won gold at the last winter olympics. The song was produced by Jim Beanz (one of Timbaland’s people, and producer of Nelly, Britney, and Whitney Houston). I wouldn’t buy it, but I can see why it would be very, very popular, especially in the countries around Russia. If Coldplay or Kylie represented the UK, we’d pick up votes everywhere.