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Natalie Haynes: There is a method in our Eurovision madness – and it's working


One of the many things I find difficult to understand about Eurovision, along with why people still think we might ever win it when our national popularity among our Euro-brethren is seemingly on a par with the ebola virus, is how it costs so much. It's watched by roughly a bazillion people every year, which must make some money for someone, surely.

Yet this year's Spanish entrant, Pastora Soler, was reportedly told by her countrymen not to win, since they couldn't afford to host the show next year. I am always delighted when reality mimics an episode of Father Ted, but can that really be so? It's been denied, but you have to wonder. All those tourists, all those opportunities to sell them flag-bearing tat, and it's a money-loser? Boy, I wish someone had told us this before we bid for the Olympics.

Of course the Spanish may be being too optimistic, since they have an even worse track record of winning Eurovision than we do. They last won in 1969 (and even that was a joint victory), which makes our 15-year drought look positively impressive. And Soler herself seems downbeat about her prospects, saying: "It is not the moment neither for Spain nor the Spanish public, to win Eurovision."

Her realism is strange and refreshing when you live as we do, in a country which prefaces every international sporting or singing contest with a pathological belief in our certain success. This remains intact in spite of all historical experience – was there ever a year when Tim Henman wasn't going to win Wimbledon, or when Andrew Lloyd Webber's most recent puppet wasn't going to bring home whatever it is Eurovision winners bring home (an oddly shaped bottle of virulently coloured liqueur, I imagine)?

It raises the question of why countries bother entering Eurovision at all, if winning causes such hardship. Portugal, knocked out in the heats, must be rubbing their hands at how much less skint they'll now be. And suddenly, Britain's recent tactics (the airline routine from Scooch in 2007, that bus driver ballad in 2008, and now everyone's favourite singing half-man half-wardrobe, Engelbert Humperdinck) make sense: we're trying not to win. I finally get it. Nul points, please.