‘Fundamental problem’ with UK Eurovision entry selection, says Cabinet minister

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said there is a “fundamental problem” with the way the United Kingdom selects performances and singers for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Her comments follow a disappointing 2021 result for the UK as British singer James Newman scored nil points in the finale of the singing competition held this weekend in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Newman, 35, was the only contestant to score zero points from the jury vote and from the public vote, putting him at the bottom on the leaderboard for the event, which was won by Italy’s rock band Maneskin with their song Zitti E Buoni.

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Ms Truss told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: “I think there’s a fundamental problem with the way that we are choosing our performances and singers for the Eurovision Song Contest, because I don’t think it’s a post Brexit snub. I think we need to have more competition to get the right entrant, I think they need to be more tested with the public.

“I’m here today at LBC responding to questions from listeners, that’s the kind of testing that we need our Song Contest entrant to go through.”

Newman, the brother of singer John Newman, thanked fans and said he wants to “focus on the positives of this amazing experience” of the competition, which saw more than seven million people in the UK tune in to watch the Saturday night finale.

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In an Instagram post, Newman said: “I want to focus on the positives of this amazing experience. I stood on a stage and sang to hundreds of millions of people with a song that I wrote and love.

“I’ve learnt so much from the amazing people who gave everything to help me live my dream, the dancers, my choreographer, my vocal coach, everyone from my label, my manager and the BBC, and all the people behind the scenes at Eurovision and the arena.

“All these people are the best in the business and I got the chance to work with them and share this crazy experience that I’m so lucky to have the chance to do.

“The thing about writing songs is that there is no guarantee that a song you think will connect with people, will connect with an audience.

“Thank you to all the amazing dedicated fans who have supported me through the whole thing, made it all worth it. Because at the end of the day they are the people who you do this all for.

“I just want to say a huge massive thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has been on this journey with me, supported me, listened to my music and filled my life with positivity and love.

“The times when it doesn’t play out how you hoped it might, teach you how to pick yourself up and be stronger x.”

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Brother John, famous for songs like Love Me Again, commented on his Instagram post writing: “So so so proud of what you have achieved! On to the next bucket list tick to you and take only the positives with you as these are what make you a better person x.”

Some 7.4 million people tuned in to watch the competition on BBC One, giving the channel a 48.5% share of the audience and making it the biggest overnight audience for a Eurovision final since 2014.

Newman had been set to appear at last year’s contest before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he co-wrote new song Embers after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said the 2020 songs would not be eligible for the 2021 competition.

In 2019 the BBC scrapped the public vote used to select the UK’s entry, instead opting to give a record label the final say.

The BBC announced in February that Newman would once again represent the United Kingdom.

The UK has featured at the bottom of the Eurovision leaderboard previously, coming in last place in 2019 with Michael Rice’s Bigger Than Us.