Eurovision contest voting is no laughing matter, says Wogan

· Veteran commentator lashes out at 'debacle'
· BBC man's irony turns to anger at tactics

Showbusiness stars and politicians yesterday joined Sir Terry Wogan's attack on the integrity of the Eurovision song contest after Russia romped home thanks to bloc voting from its near-neighbours. Wogan is threatening not to commentate on the show again and is suggesting that a musical iron curtain may fall on the competition, with western European countries breaking away from their eastern rivals.

Arriving back at Heathrow from Belgrade, where the 53rd contest was staged, Wogan said: "You have various blocs voting. We've got nobody to vote for us.

"I think the British music industry and the BBC really have to look at this and see how they can avoid this yearly debacle. At the very beginning of the year I said Russia would win for political reasons and they did."

He said Russia had "begun to be a bit bearish again" and added: "I think the former countries of the USSR are feeling a little nervous. The voting used to be about the songs. Now it's about national prejudices. We are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer. We came joint last. I don't want to be presiding over another debacle." Fellow stars backed Wogan, who has been involved in what some see as an annual cringefest since the 1970s. Bruce Forsyth said: "It's not a song contest any more, it's political. It's all so biased, it's developed into a farce. I've stopped watching it." Asked about Wogan's role in the show, he said: "As long as they don't ask me to do it, I don't care." Pop svengali Simon Cowell said: "If people enjoy it as entertainment, that's great, but it's all a bit empty and meaningless as a competition."

Public relations expert Max Clifford added: "It's like having a World Cup where the results are worked out in political terms and it's got nothing to do with who scores the most goals."

The Liberal Democrat MP Richard Younger-Ross has tabled a Commons motion condemning the voting as "a joke". He said: "It is clear that the voting system is based on countries either supporting their friends or not voting for those they dislike. The BBC is one of the four main funders of the competition, and should withdraw their contribution until a time when there is a fair voting system."

The BBC was not commenting on Wogan's remarks or the calls for it to withdraw its funding yesterday. But it is very unlikely to pull the plug on the contest, after revealing that 9.3 million viewers tuned in on Saturday night - an audience share of just under 50%.

Wogan's wry commentary is a highlight of the BBC's coverage but his irony turned to barely disguised anger as eastern European, Iberian and Nordic neighbours voted for each other. The Russian entry, Dima Bilan, accompanied by a manic fiddle player and an Olympic champion figure skater who pirouetted around the stage, won comfortably.

As it became clear that the British entry, Even If, by former dustman Andy Abraham, was going to finish joint last, Wogan said: "I'm afraid nobody loves the United Kingdom ... is it funny any more?"

Later he suggested it had been common knowledge that Russia was going to win. "The word went out it was Russia's turn," said Wogan.

When Ukraine awarded Russia the maximum 12 points, Wogan commented: "Ukraine want to be absolutely sure that the electricity and the oil flows through." As Latvia did the same he said it knew which side its bread was buttered on. Over the closing titles he said it could be "goodnight western Europe".

Naturally, the Russians were delighted. The prime minister, Vladimir Putin, sent the victor a telegram, calling the win "one more important triumph for all of Russia".

Friends and neighbours

· Russia won thanks largely to loyal voting from former Soviet republics. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Armenia all awarded it the maximum 12 points. Ukraine came second, helped by Russia, which awarded it eight points.

· Others, such as the Nordic countries, also stuck together. Denmark was the most loyal, giving eight points to Sweden, 10 to Norway and 12 to Iceland. Iceland repaid the compliment, awarding Denmark 12 points and Norway 10.

· Andorra faithfully gave Spain 12 points and Portugal 10. Spain gave eight to Portugal.

· The UK picked up only 14 points - eight from Ireland, six from San Marino. The UK gave 12 points to Greece, 10 to Latvia, eight to Turkey - but none to Russia.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Eurovision song contest faces questions over its text voting system

The winner of the Eurovision song contest could be called into question because most countries taking part will allow text voting. By Leigh Holmwood

Leigh Holmwood

23, May, 2008 @1:55 PM

Article image
Eurovision Song Contest: UK could lose guaranteed place in final

The UK could lose its guaranteed place in the Eurovision Song Contest final following criticism that the event is becoming increasingly biased against western European countries. By Leigh Holmwood

Leigh Holmwood

28, May, 2008 @9:44 AM

Article image
Eurovision: Just don't start drinking too early, Terry Wogan tells Graham Norton

New song contest commentator reveals advice from his much-loved predecessor. By Luke Harding

Luke Harding Moscow

15, May, 2009 @4:26 PM

Article image
Eurovision is flavoured with politics in post-revolution Ukraine

Eurovision means frothy pop, doesn't it? Not any more. Dorian Lynskey reports from post-revolution Ukraine.

18, May, 2005 @11:56 PM

Ireland's Eurovision song entry is guaranteed to be a turkey

A puppet called Dustin the Turkey has been chosen to represent Ireland in the 2008 Eurovision song contest. By Rowan Walker

Rowan Walker

24, Feb, 2008 @9:48 AM

Russia notches up first Eurovision win

Russian Dima Bilan has won this year's Eurovision Song Contest in the Serbian capital Belgrade

25, May, 2008 @10:02 AM

Article image
Wogan urges changes to Eurovision selection

4.30pm: Terry Wogan has warned that the BBC must change the way the UK's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest is chosen. By John Plunkett.

John Plunkett

28, May, 2003 @3:58 PM

Article image
Wogan fears 'Britain' will never win Eurovision again

In the news: The TV host worries an 'Iron Curtain' conspiracy will ruin the prospects of a UK triumph

Paul MacInnes

20, May, 2008 @12:55 PM

Article image
Terry Wogan raises a glass of Baileys to 'rubbish' Eurovision Song Contest

The former host admits that Eurovision is 'a triumph of appalling taste', but says he will be watching with a drink in his hand. By Leigh Holmwood

Leigh Holmwood

15, May, 2009 @9:15 AM

Letters: East-west divide over Eurovision

Letters: Perhaps the Eurovision should start to arrange colluding countries into small groups rather than giving each an individual entry

26, May, 2008 @11:37 PM