Terry Wogan (right) has blamed “racist” Eastern Europeans for Britain’s dismal showing in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The veteran broadcaster, who hosts the BBC’s coverage of the event, claimed that Andy Abraham, the British entrant, had finished in last place because Eastern Europeans could not bring themselves to vote for a black singer.
In his column in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Wogan argues: “The elephant in the room was our singer Andy Abraham’s colour. East of the Danube, they won’t be voting for any black singer any day soon.”
He added: “Those who care [about the contest] will have had it up to here with the blatant political voting from the former satellites of the USSR that awarded this year’s event to Russia, and the even more scandalous lack of votes for the UK entry.”
None of the 22 Eastern European countries awarded a single vote to Abraham and his song Even If, even though commentators generally considered him to have given one of the best performances.
He scored 14 points, finishing joint last with the German entry, No Angels, a band featuring two black vocalists.
Eastern European diplomats in London denied that racism had played any part. Irena Dimitrova, Bulgaria’s cultural attaché, accepted that there were very few black people in Bulgaria but insisted that race was not a factor.
She said: “We are a very serious country when it comes to our music. We are very well educated musically and we like black music.” (Who is we? –Ed.)
Eerik Marmei, the deputy head of the Estonian embassy in London, said: “I would say the accusation of racism is totally rubbish.”
Artur Orzech, a Polish music journalist who has hosted that country’s television coverage since 1992 said: “The real problem is the televoting which has thrown open the voting to the public. The voting is very political and geographic. As Napoleon once said, democracy is too important to give to the people.”
Abraham, 43, the runner-up on the second series of The X Factor, last night agreed that race wasn’t an issue. He said: “I do think some of the voting might be to do with the issue of bias which people in the media have been talking about. But I have no control over how the voting works.”
The only black musician to have been part of a winning entry is Dave Benton, a member of the band that won for Estonia in 2001.
Black British entrants have struggled in recent years. In 1998, when just eight Eastern countries took part, the black British entrant Imaani came second, scoring full marks from Croatia and Romania.
However in 2005, Javine, the black singer representing Britain, came 22nd with her song Touch My Fire after receiving “nul point” from 17 Eastern European countries.
Barry Viniker, who runs Esctoday.com, a Eurovision fansite, said: “I don’t think there’s an intrinsic racism problem but I think there might be a lack of understanding.
“The problem is that many of the Eastern bloc countries don’t have black or minority communities and maybe that is an issue.”