THIS Saturday night will see the whole of the UK deny that they are going to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, but then rather a lot of us end up doing so. BBC host Graham Norton will be his usual acerbic self about a show which, in its 62-year history, has produced relatively few songs and acts that went on to major stardom – the exceptions being, most notably, Abba, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias, Bucks Fizz, and the half-time act that is still a globetrotting sensation, Riverdance. The four other British winners were already established stars.

The UK has also been second on no less than 15 occasions, but since the expansion of the European Broadcasting Union after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the UK has had just one winner: Katrina and the Waves singing Love Shine a Light in 1997. In the last 15 years the UK has usually been voted well down the list, with only Jade Ewen in 2009 making the top 10.

THE UK gets an automatic route into the final as one of the Big Five along with Italy, France, Germany and Spain, otherwise we would probably not be there this weekend.

One theory is that the chaos of Brexit will affect the vote on Saturday. More than half of the 42 countries in the voting are EU members, and the UK isn’t very popular with them just now.

The National:

Whether it’s down to Brexit or not, the pundits and the bookmakers all agree that the British entry Storm, sung by SuRie, will be listless in Lisbon on Saturday night. It probably won’t get nul points like Jemini in 2003 – the only time that has happened to the British entry – but no-one, absolutely no-one, is talking up a Storm.

THE contest is nearly always controversial in some way. Political rows have included Russia being disallowed its entry into the contest held in Ukraine last year after it emerged that their contestant Yulia Samoylova had performed in the annexed Crimea region. The contest was held in Kiev only because Ukraine had won with a popular anti-Russian song the previous year. In 2009, the Georgian entry We Don’t Wanna Put In was disqualified because it was obviously a dig at Vladimir Putin.

LGBT rights have also been an issue. The bearded Conchita Wurst of Austria, aka drag artist Tomas Neuwirth, attracted the ire of Russian politicians when he won in 2014 – even before the contest, Putin had called it a “Europe-wide gay parade”. Twenty years ago today, Israel’s Dana International became the first transgender person to win, sparking huge outrage in her home country.

IT really is true that certain countries always vote for their neighbours and chums, with former Eastern Bloc countries sticking together. The worst offender, however, is the UK, which has given way more votes to Ireland than any other nation.

ISRAEL’S Netta singing the catchy Toy is joint favourite with Cyprus, both at 4/1. Cyprus has never won the Contest and Eleni Foureira with Fuego is their best hope yet. If you think the UK has a chance, and SuRie will succeed with her performance of Storm, you can get 200-1 with some bookmakers – which says it all, really.