Cowell, not Cameron

Well, once again, it’s time for the nation to make its choice. It’s all very exciting but, remember, democracy is a serious business. Millions of votes, each one coloured by a myriad of predictions and assumptions, all converge on a single decision to affirm or deny the fevered hopes of one chosen individual. And then, ascending to that position of absolute merit, buoyed up by the sovereign will of the masses, they go forth before the Queen… and perform a variety act.

Heavy-handed satire aside, there really are a remarkable set of parallels between _Britain’s Got Talent_ and Election 2010, largely due to the increasing sway of television over the latter. Both will be unduly influenced by an icy, media-savvy svengali with a penchant for put-downs, both have already featured roughly more than 6000% of the recommended daily amount of Piers Morgan and, owing to the shiny new Leaders’ debates, both will ultimately depend upon the ability to impress an audience of raucous idiots for two minutes.

Despite this, one can’t help but suspect that choosing an act for the Royal Variety Show will inevitably prove more popular than selecting a Prime Minister for two reasons. Firstly, whatever happens, none of the candidates will attempt to garner support through an intricately timed dance routine and secondly, the voters may believe that Cowell and Co. offer them more of a say than the ballot box…albeit over a decision more insignificant than Adrian Chiles’ tie selection (whatever he wears, you‘ll just end up staring at his face, pondering whether he looks more like a suburban troll or a dim-witted Nazi Kommandant).

On that basis, then, it seems minutely more worthwhile to expend the next 250 words discussing _Britain’s Got Talent_ than the debates. First off, the acts: expect the usual array of singers, dancers and other. They may be somewhat anti-climactic this year as everyone is doubtlessly anticipating another inspirational narrative about a mildly gifted weirdo after all the SuBo nonsense last time round.

In contrast to the ever precarious judging line-up on _X Factor_, the panel for Talent remains much the same, presumably because Cowell has managed to assemble the only possible triumvirate (except for perhaps himself, Jeffrey Archer and Peter Sutcliffe) in which he’s somehow the most likable member. Piers Morgan, a man oily enough to be invaded by the US, is essentially a hideously subverted form of national treasure. He is despised by everyone and yet bewilderingly grows in prominence every year. He’s attempted to market himself as ‘the man you love to hate’. He’s not: he’s the man you just hate. Amanda Holden, although not as obviously intolerable, is nonetheless so eye-wateringly thick that pressing the buzzer is invariably her most eloquent contribution to the show. There is more cerebral activity in a box of crackers. Next to these two, Cowell has attained the heretofore unimaginable position of seeming merely a bit of an arsehole.

All that’s really necessary for the series to work is for the magic formula to remain intact (there’s enough dream-stamping to hold the attention of all passing reality sadists). In fact, never have a show’s contents more openly contradicted its title; on the evidence offered up in the first episode, what Britain’s actually ‘got’ is an unnervingly large collection of the cack-handed and delusional, all ripe for the humiliation of the big red crosses. Incidentally, expect to see those at the next set of Leaders’ debates.


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