A couple of weeks after the General Election, we’ll all be gathering around our TVs for another night of overblown histrionics and complicated voting analysis when it’s time for 2015’s Eurovision Song Contest. With the death of former British Eurovision entrant Ronnie Carroll causing a bit of a stir in the election a couple of weeks ago, I decided to look at under which parties and Prime Ministers we’ve had the most success in the contest.
My first discovery was that only three Prime Ministers have presided over British Eurovision victories: Wilson, Thatcher and Blair. They’re also the three longest serving Prime Ministers of the Eurovision era, which perhaps indicates a link between success and Prime Ministerial longevity. Wilson’s the most successful, with three victories and just one each for Thatcher and Blair. It is worth noting that Blair’s victory (Katrina and the Waves, 1997) came on just his second day in office, while Wilson’s final victory came just two days before he left office, so there is also a possible link between victory and Prime Ministerial transition.
Despite having more victories under Labour Prime Ministers, the overall record under Tory governments is better with Britain’s average finishing position under purely Tory governments being 4.88 and just 9.12 under Labour governments. The coalition has fared even worse, with an average finishing position of 19.6, which makes the average under Tory PMs 7.16 – still better than the Labour average. Of course, there is an effect of the number of contestant countries increasing over the years, which I haven’t controlled for.
In terms of individual Prime Ministers, the list goes like this (excluding Douglas-Home, who only saw one contest during his time in office, Matt Monro’s 2nd place in 1964):
1) Wilson (average finishing position of 2.66 over 9 contests)
2) Heath (3 over 3 contests)
3) Macmillan (3.5 over 6 contests)
4) Thatcher (5.27 over 11 contests)
5) Callaghan (6.66 over 3 contests)
6) Major (7 over 6 contests)
7) Blair (14 over 11 contests)
8) Brown (15 over 2 contests)
9) Cameron (19.6 over 5 contests)
What’s clear from that is that there’s been a general decline in Britain’s performance over the years with each Prime Minister doing worse than their predecessor except for Wilson and Thatcher. The general trend appears to be for a long-term decline beyond the control of any political party leaving little hope of a British revival, unless someone finds a way to resurrect Harold Wilson.