As the UK prepares to choose its 2017 entrant to the Eurovision Song Contest, Graham Norton has declared that the country can “absolutely” win the competition because “anything can happen” on the night.
The United Kingdom may have triumphed at Eurovision five times in its long history (not bad), but we have been on a two-decade losing streak since Katrina and the Waves’ victory in 1997. We’ve not even been in the top ten for the past seven years, and once even had the embarrassment of “nul points”.
But Norton’s optimism refuses to be crushed.
Speaking backstage after winning the Special Recognition prize at the National Television Awards, the BBC’s Eurovision commentator told RadioTimes.com that he would never rule out a win.
“Well there’s always a surprise. Us winning, that may not be the surprise, but you never know,” he said.
So – can he foresee a future where we actually do come out on top?
“Absolutely. Germany’s won, Austria won. People who never win, win,” the chat show host pointed out. “On the night, anything can happen. The Ukraine won!”
Norton replaced Terry Wogan when he stepped down in 2008. The long-time Eurovision commentator threw in the towel after complaining about bloc voting, explaining: “You have to say that this is no longer a music contest.”
Asked whether he might ever reach that point, Norton said: “Listen, never say never.
“He did it for 30 odd years, so if I’m still doing it in 30 odd years, one: I’ll be very old, and two: then I may have fallen out of love with it.
“But right now I still adore Eurovision, I think it’s an amazing night of the year. It’s a very special night.”
In uncertain times, can the music competition be a force for European unity?
“Honestly, I think it can,” Norton said. “I remember the night that Conchita Wurst won. There had been a lot of bad press about Eastern Europe that year, and anti-gay legislation. And when you realised that the people who lived in those countries were voting for Conchita Wurst, you realised that countries aren’t their government, countries are people. And it made you a bit hopeful.
“And I remember all the commentators, we came over to the little boxes after that win, and we were crying. I know it’s ridiculous because it’s Eurovision and who really cares, but in that moment it was profound.”
Eurovision: You Decide airs on Friday 27th January at 7:30pm on BBC2