James Newman could get top-five Eurovision spot, Cheryl Baker predicts

The UK’s hope for Eurovision success faces some “stiff competition” but could land a place in the top five, former winner Cheryl Baker has said.

Baker, 67, who won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest as part of Bucks Fizz with the track Making Your Mind Up, said she has her fingers crossed for the UK’s entrant James Newman for tonight’s grand final in the Netherlands.

Singer-songwriter Newman, who is one of 26 acts vying for the top prize during the climax of the week-long contest in Rotterdam, will perform his song Embers.

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Baker told Times Radio: “It is a great song and he has got great credibility across Europe. They know him. They know the songs he has written.

“We may do much better than we have done in the past 20-odd years.

“However, some people do not believe there is a political vote. I do. I think that the general public may not like the fact that we have come out of Europe.

“I am hoping. I have got my fingers crossed for James that he is in the top five. There is some stiff competition.”

EUROVISION Bucks Fizz
Bucks Fizz after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 (PA)

The 35-year-old is the older brother of chart-topping pop star John Newman and was due to perform the ballad My Last Breath last year before the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Ireland’s Eurovision entry Lesley Roy missed out on reaching the final with her song Maps after failing to be voted through from the first semi-final. Newman qualifies automatically because the UK holds one of the guaranteed spots in the final as a major financial supporter of the contest.

The UK has finished in the top half of the final only three times so far this century, thanks to Jessica Garlick in 2002, Jade Ewen in 2009 and the band Blue in 2011.

It has also finished in a humiliating last place four times, with the unwanted ranking going to Jemini in 2003, Andy Abraham in 2008, Josh Dubovie in 2010 and Michael Rice in 2019.

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The UK is also a five-time winner of the song battle, with victories for Sandie Shaw in 1967, Lulu in 1969, Brotherhood Of Man in 1976 and Katrina And The Waves in 1997, as well as Bucks Fizz’s 1981 triumph.

The “skirt rip” was an eye-catching moment for Buck Fizz during their run to the title, with the male band members whisking away the long over-skirts of the female singers brightly coloured costumes to reveal shorter dresses underneath, and Baker believe the gimmick helped them gain a few extra points towards victory.

She told the programme that Eurovision acts can be helped by having something “quirky” in their performance as it is “the production, the song and the singer which makes it a winner”.