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Cowell’s new show may add much needed X Factor to British politics ahead of next year’s general election

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2009 at 11:30 pm

By Tom Kennedy

There are many words to describe Simon Cowell, but mundane is most certainly not one of them. The music mogul is equally loved and hated for his sizable ego, witty putdowns and array of contrived pop stars. Cowell loves the razzmatazz and glamour that are such a prominent feature in the world of show business, so the somewhat dour world of British politics doesn’t seem the most obvious attraction for one of his interactive reality shows. It came as a surprise to many this week when Cowell, who is on course to become TV’s first billionaire, unveiled plans to launch an election debate programme. During an interview with Newsnight, the record producer revealed plans for a series of ‘five or six’ prime time TV shows to be screened in the run-up to the General Election. Explaining his interest in producing such shows, Cowell said ‘What I’m always interested in is what the public think on certain issues. If you went around the country now it would be five or six big, big issues which I think are really, really important in people’s lives.

“Cowell will realise that he is not creating a show for the typical X factor viewer, but will want to ensure that that the format is accessible to them, rather than caving in to the political elite.”

Although Cowell himself would not present the show, the fact that their would be a “red telephone in the middle which at any time someone from Number 10 can call in” confirms the programme would indeed bare the typical traits of one of his productions, rather than the less contrived televised political approach of the Andrew Marr show. This has already led to alarm from the traditionalists within Westminster, worried that politics could fall foul of Cowell’s midas touch. They don’t want their profession transformed into a product of reality television, and rightly so. However, Cowell clearly knows what he is doing. Whilst he may not have experience within the political sphere, there is nobody better at producing entertaining television, and sensing what the audiences want to see. Cowell will realise that he is not creating a show for the typical X factor viewer, but will want to ensure that that the format is accessible to them, rather than caving in to the political elite. Politicians need fear not, Gordon Brown will not be going head to head with Susan Boyle or JLS.

For many politics and show business simply shouldn’t mix. After all, politics should be about policy, not personalities. It’s about both. The political classes are not interested in duming down and making political decisions into a form of Saturday night entertainment, something that many are convinced Cowell’s new show would attempt to do. However, these politicians must accept, whether they like it or not, the electorate is dramatically changing. The expenses scandal that ruffled Westminster’s feathers so badly has not been forgotten, and many people simply don’t feel comfortable putting their trust in the hands of these men and women. Cowell would give the opportunity to ask questions to these people live on air, and give a good view of public opinion without the expense and hassle that accompany referendums.

Politicians should be doing everything they can to get the public back on side, and convince people that what they have to say genuinely is of interest to them. This show would help people to feel politically active, in a way that is modern and relevant to so many younger people. On Saturday night, the X factor finale earned nearly twenty million viewers. If Cowell can get even half that number to engage in political debate before the general election, he’s surely worth a try.

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