Is it actually Louis Walsh, not Simon Cowell, calling the X Factor shots?

Have we been fooled all along? The big decisions increasingly seem to be coming courtesy of Lou Lou…

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Is it just me or are a lot of X Factor decisions coming from judge Louis Walsh, not boss Simon Cowell, this year?

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Absent from last year’s show, Louis nevertheless told anyone who would listen that he’d only come back if the “right people” were on the panel. He deemed those people to be himself (naturally), Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger. At the time it was an interesting declaration given he was supposedly booted off last year in favour of Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw. Who was he to decide which judges he’d deign to line up alongside if he returned? But five months later, who do we find on the 2016 panel? Exactly.

He’d already been preparing the ground, saying that Cheryl needed “a rest”, telling the Daily Star she’d “lost a bit of energy” and that she should “go away”. Low and behold, a few weeks on: bye-bye Cheryl. 

Rita Ora? For a long time I thought the singer was a dead cert to return, with sources telling me Simon Cowell was keen to keep her. She won with Louisa Johnson last year and the show had fought to get her from rival The Voice in the first place. But who cares what Simon wants? Again, Louis wasn’t keen. “We didn’t want Rita Ora,” he told Best magazine. “It turned into a fashion show.”

“The panel didn’t have the right credentials. They were lightweight,” he added of the 2015 line-up, with seemingly no interest in sugar coating anything. Is Ms Ora on this year’s show? Nope, she is not.

He had a hand from a certain Mrs O, it seems, in shifting Rita out – “Sharon and I pushed for Nicole” – but there’s a growing sense that it’s Walsh’s way or the highway…

Only this week it’s been reported that X Factor live shows will include David Bowie and Prince theme weeks, which to directly quote The Sun – bold type, capital letters and all – are “being pushed by LOUIS WALSH, who has been trying to convince producers to get it confirmed before the new series launches in three weeks’ time.”

Should we just get him an ‘I’m the real boss’ mug for the judges’ desk, right now?

Of course, Louis is by no means a guarantee of success on the show. He’s been there when it was rubbish, too. But everyone’s in agreement that last year wasn’t right and it’s the first time he’s been gone for an entire series. Even Mr Cowell knows there’s something in that.  

“What none of us anticipated, and I said this to Nick [Grimshaw], is how much people like Louis,” he told The Mirror.

“I spoke to Louis and I said, ‘I don’t know what has happened but you are suddenly the most popular person in the country!’”

Perhaps his whole weepy/panicked “I’m taking it to Deadlock” routine is a facade. This year perhaps we’ll get a look at the real Walsh. The decisive Walsh. The Walsh who’s been pulling the strings, making decisions left, right and centre, displacing this myth of Cowell as the big boss man. Maybe he’ll do that ‘entrance salute’ this year. Maybe he’ll adopt a low-slung white shirt. Heck, maybe he’ll actually win again and then Cowell will literally never be able to get rid of him…

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The X Factor returns to ITV later this year