Everybody is a star

How Simon Cowell helped take us from meritocracy to mediocrity in a decade
Simon Cowell is not a mass murderer, which is an important caveat. People do not die as a direct consequence of The X Factor — except in a few unverified cases of viewers witnessing their will to live exiting through the tops of their skulls as some off-key warbling nonentity makes a George Michael song even more emetic than it was in the first place and being congratulated on so doing by thick, doe-eyed, over-emoting panellists who themselves are possessed of not even a soupçon of talent.

And it’s here that there is something genuinely defining about The X Factor — in the elevation of suffocating mediocrity, the superficial, the banal and in the incontinent, demented shrieking of the studio audience, and — when the hopeless winner is announced, the statements of congratulation from No 10 and the opposition.

When the Geordie Joe McElderry won last year’s contest, they cut to a vast street party in his home town of South Shields where the idiotic mayor and his wife were dancing a jig, the sorts of scenes Britain once witnessed only on occasions such as VE Day.