Eurovision 2016: The 3 Countries The UK Won't Get Any Votes From

Eurovision Song Contest reveals alliances and chasms between countries, musically speaking.

The 61 Eurovision Song Contest kicked off last night with its first semi-final in Stockholm, and already the pundits are despairing of the UK doing any better this year than in previous dismal showings.

Even the Contest’s most loyal champion, the late, great Terry Wogan – who will surely be paid fitting tribute on Saturday evening by the BBC – grew increasingly weary of the political voting on the show, where geographical neighbours started looking out for each other, Cyprus made its allegiance to Greece over Turkey comically clear, and the UK’s withering series of defeats couldn’t be put solely down to the fact that its entry sounded like an inferior version of the Waffles ad.

Our entry this year, Joe and Jake with a pair of guitars and cherubic grins, are at least in the top ten favourites, according to the bookies. However, this may mean nothing when it comes to Saturday night, with voting blocs across the continent (and Israel, and Australia) putting their weight behind someone else – and not just because the artist is performing naked with a pair of wolves (yes, looking at you, Belarus).

Joe and Jake will be hoping for points from Ireland, Austria and Portugal at the very least
Joe and Jake will be hoping for points from Ireland, Austria and Portugal at the very least
Ian West/PA Wire

With such collegiate influence afoot, who CAN the UK rely on to make it feel like less like an island, as the votes come in? According to the serious number-crunching of accounting technicians AAT, our biggest Eurovision friend is Ireland, who’ve given us 187 points in total since both countries participated for the first time in 1957. Besides this predictable ally, our most loyal supporters have been Austria (175 votes) and Portugal (152).

Who doesn’t like us? AAT informs us that the country who’s dished out the fewest votes in our direction is Greece, with a meagre 85 votes in six decades. Not giving much more away, Italy with 88 and Finland with 97.

Surely this says more about differing musical styles than it does about political differences or geographical chasms. While Ireland used to do consistently well with their power ballads – thank you, Johnny Logan – it seems their voters have been equally amenable to the UK’s more diverse offerings. Ireland is the only country to have given the UK points at every contest in the last decade, which is pretty loyal considering the likes of 2007’s Scooch (‘Flying the Flag For You’) and last year’s Electro Velvet.

Not much love for the UK's Electro Velvet in 2015 from anyone, unfortunately
Not much love for the UK's Electro Velvet in 2015 from anyone, unfortunately
DIETER NAGL via Getty Images

In contrast, Greece has obviously been less impressed, understandable when you consider their own offerings, more dramatic, folky and generally in their own language.

When it comes to sharing out our precious UK votes, who do we like in return? Unsurprisingly, our most beloved contestant is Ireland, with a whopping 209 of the points of the UK jury, and more recently, public voters going in the direction of Mr Logan and his compatriots. Behind them, it seems our admiration for Sweden has endured long since ABBA in 1974, with 170 points going to them, and Germany with 144 – the latter meaning we can count ourselves partially responsible for the victories of 1982’s Nicole with ‘A Little Peace’ and Lena’s ‘Satellite’ in 2010.

Poor Portugal, however, has only received 29 UK points in the Contest’s history - well, can you name a Portuguese entry? – while it is evident we’re not much fonder of Finland (37) and Italy (48).

For the UK's Swedish ambassador, Nicola Clas, the voting can often highlight tensions between countries, however surprising. She remembers 1995, when Sweden gave its neighbour Norway nul points. Despite the latter going on to win the Contest, the Swedish ambassador to Oslo was called upon to apologise.

If you want to discover the country we apparently have the least rapport with – musically speaking – then it’s clear from the voting over the last decade. The UK has not given Montenegro a single point in that time, nor has it received any in return. Ouch! See below - how many points for Montenegro's Highway performing 'The Real Thing'? (Clue: alas, they did not make the cut for the 2016 final after last night's performance)

Nicola Clas told this week's Radio Times: "Voting for your neighbours has always been part of the contest. On its own, it will never be enough to swing the contest: the only way to win is to get points from all over the continent. As Abba’s Benny and Björn said, 'Everything always begins and ends with a good song.'"

Other countries whose fingers obviously slipped when it came to dishing out the votes to the UK: Austria and Finland, a decade of nul points all round.

In return, those receiving nul points from the UK in the last 10 years include Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Macedonia, San Marino and Slovenia.

Of course, that could all be about to change if the Belarus entry lives up to his promise to perform naked, with wolves, surely an act to bring Europe together if ever there was one.

The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals continue on Thursday on BBC Four at 8pm, with the Grand Final on Saturday evening on BBC One. Nicola Clas presents The Swedish Ambassador’s Guide to Eurovision on BBC World Service, which you can listen to here.

Tap the first picture below to open the slideshow:

When is it?
This year’s grand finale takes place on Saturday 14 May, airing on BBC One from 8pm. The live semi-finals will be held in the week leading up to it, on 10 and 12 May.
What is the UK entry?
This year, the UK will be represented by duo Joe & Jake, with their song ‘You’re Not Alone’. They were picked in a viewer vote, following a live show to pick the winner last month. You may well recognise the pair, as they previously appeared as individual contestants on the 2015 series of ‘The Voice UK’, with Jake sent home in the Knockout round, while Joe made it to week two of the live shows.
Who is Ireland’s entrant?
Having been represented by the likes of Jedward and Dustin the Turkey in previous years, 2016 sees another familiar face representing Ireland. Former Westlife member Nicky Byrne will be hoping to score victory with his song ‘Sunlight’, but unlike the UK, he will have to make it through the semi-finals first to be in with a chance of winning.
Where is it being held this year?
Malte Mueller via Getty Images
The Contest will be beamed live across Europe from Stockholm, following Sweden’s win last year, where Måns Zelmerlöw’s song ‘Hero’ came out on top. It will be the third time the contest has taken place the capital, but the sixth time it has been held in Sweden.
Who is hosting the BBC coverage this year?
As ever, Graham Norton will be on hand to give his unique take on proceedings, giving his verdict on the night’s good, bad and bizarre performances. Given that this is also the first Contest since the death of former Eurovision commentator Terry Wogan, who Graham took over from in 2008, viewers have wondered whether there will also be a special tribute paid to him. Meanwhile, it is also expected that Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc will resume their roles hosting coverage of the semi-finals.
What other countries are in the contest?
Manfred Schmid via Getty Images
In total 43 countries have entered the competition this year, with the big six (the UK, Spain, Sweden, France, Germany and Italy) already guaranteed a place in the final due to the fact they historically pay the biggest contribution to fund the annual event. However, there are only 26 or 27 places in the final, so the semi-finalists have got a challenge on their hands to get one of them. This year also marks the return of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine after absences from recent contests.
Are Australia still taking part?
Yes, after being invited to take part in last year’s competition as a special guest, our Aussie mates will return to compete again. However, this time around, they will have to compete in the semi-finals along with the other entrants, rather than being granted a place in the final. They will be represented by former ‘X Factor Australia’ winner Dami Im, with her song ‘Sound Of Silence’.
So what is this about a new voting system?
The voting system has been radically overhauled for 2016, with the Eurovision Broadcast Union stating that it will add “a new level of excitement for hundreds of millions of viewers in Europe and beyond”. So how will it work? Well, for the first time ever, the public and juries in each country will vote separately, each awarding between one to 12 points to their favourite 10 acts. The results will be announced in two parts, with the juries' scores going first. These will then be followed by the results of the public vote, with votes from all countries being combined together. The hosts will then announce these, starting with the country that received the fewest, with the same method also being used in the semi-finals. Still confused? Find out more here.
What chance have we got of winning?
Guy Levy/BBC/PA Wire
Ha. Well, hopefully the new voting system should mean that we don’t end up with ‘nul points’, but we won’t be placing any big bucks on us being crowned champs. Despite having one of the best entries we’ve had in years, we’re 21st favourite (out of 43) to win, with odds of 50/1, according to bookies William Hill.
So who is the early favourite to win?
Currently Russia is the bookies’ pick, pegged at 2/1 for their entrant, Sergey Lazarev with song ‘You Are the Only One’. Sweden is the second favourite to scoop the crown for two years running, with Frans’ ‘If I Were Sorry’ at 5/1. Malta is next at 8/1, with Australia and Croatia at 10/1.

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