Simon Cowell on the lookout for new female X Factor judge after deciding to axe Kelly Rowland

Simon Cowell on the lookout for new female X Factor judge after deciding to 'almost certainly' axe Kelly Rowland

Kelly Rowland 'failed to connect' with X Factor viewers and is set to be axed

Kelly Rowland 'failed to connect' with X Factor viewers and is set to be axed

Just a year ago, Simon Cowell launched an extensive search to find two new female X Factor judges.

But now, after a quiet decision to ‘almost certainly’ axe former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland from the panel of the hit talent show, he’s on the lookout again.

Senior sources at ITV tell me they will happily wave goodbye to the 31-year-old American singer because she ‘failed to connect with viewers’ and ‘annoyed production staff with her diva attitude’.

Kelly famously refused to fly back from LA for one of the shows after a row with rival judge Tulisa Contostavlos, blaming a throat condition.

I’ve been told: ‘Kelly has got to go. She was not right for the show. The producers didn’t like her and her commitment level wasn’t there. There’s an understanding she didn’t work on the panel.’

But Cowell insists he will have the final say on the judging line-up and plans to spend a number of weeks weighing up alternatives before announcing his line-up.

However, Tulisa is considered a ‘sure bet’ to return after winning last year with girl group Little Mix. ITV also wants Gary Barlow back, while Cowell admits sacking his close friend Louis Walsh would be difficult. Westlife member Kian Egan has been touted as a potential replacement.

Kelly’s departure does pose an intriguing question: could former judges Cheryl Cole or Dannii Minogue return

My ITV source explains: ‘Simon would need to sort his issues with Cheryl and he usually believes in moving forward.’

A spokeswoman for The X Factor said: ‘The panel will be decided by ITV, the producers and Simon together — absolutely no decisions have been made yet.’

When she joined Coronation Street there was a wave of protest from fans over her apparently poor Mancunian accent.


But ex-EastEnder Michelle Collins has had the highest possible assurances from the ITV soap that she will be a fixture as the Rovers Return landlady for many years to come.

Producer Phil Collinson confirms: ‘She’s a great comedy actress and there is no chance of her being written out. People were used to seeing her in EastEnders and wanted to use it as an opportunity to bash Corrie. But I never considered not standing by her.’

Filming on series three of Downton Abbey has begun and usually cool Cora, Countess of Grantham, will become much sparkier. U.S. actress Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the part, tells me: ‘I’m not as unflappable as in the past and I get more angry.’

Will flunks the Beeb's hunk test

Until just 24 hours before the BBC named the line-up for its new talent show The Voice, original Pop Idol winner Will Young (pictured) believed he was on the judging panel with Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J and Will.I.Am.


But then the little-known Danny O’Donoghue, a member of rock band The Script, was named in his place.

There is a belief from many involved in the show that Mr Young was dropped because he is openly gay, although the BBC firmly refutes this.

My source explains: ‘The decision was not homophobic, but the panel needed a sexy “hunk” who would appeal to young female viewers.

It was decided that Will didn’t really fit into that category and that Danny, as a rock star, was an exciting new talent who most certainly did.’

A BBC spokeswoman told me: ‘That’s not to say the BBC doesn’t think Will’s fantastic. We do. He’s just not right for us at this time on this show.’

Suspicions about the reasons behind Mr Young’s axing are likely to have fuelled his anger. After the decision, he tweeted: ‘Life is sometimes a bitch.’

Channel 4 is plotting a poaching spree on stars from the BBC’s daytime schedule. One likely target is Martin Roberts, the host of Homes Under The Hammer, which beats This Morning on ITV1. Another is Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott.