The X Factor live shows have only just kicked off but voting figures have already revealed an early favourite with the British public. The Sun newspaper reports that Simon Cowell's act Anton Stephans is tipped to take the crown this year.
According to leaked stats, obtained by the tabloid, the 45-year-old wannabe topped the polls on the first weekend of the live shows, raking in 23% of the votes and thrashing bookies' favourite Louisa Johnson by almost two to one (13%). In third place was Seann Miley Moore, who despite receiving 12% of the vote was booted off the ITV talent show on Sunday (8 November) after a sing-off with Mason Noise.
News that the public has warmed to Stephans comes days after he was accused of deceiving viewers with a "sob story" about his disturbing childhood in care. During the audition stage he revealed that he had been adopted at the age of seven because of his tempestuous relationship with his biological parents Kenneth and Pauline.
"Anton wasn't adopted, if he was he'd have adopted parents. No one knows why he is saying things like that. It's all rubbish," a family friend told the publication. "He has been telling stories like this for years and it has finally come back to bite him."
Meanwhile it has been suggested that The Voice's move to ITV could mark the end of The X Factor. Cowell's talent show has been struggling to attract the same numbers it managed five years ago and continues to be beaten by BBC's Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings war. An average of 7.6 million tuned in to watch the 12th series launch, with new judges Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw.
Duncan Gray, a former ITV controller of entertainment, said the public had fallen out of love with the former juggernaut. "Unlike Britain's Got Talent, X Factor is a very Blairite show. It has become increasingly venal over the years and is all about being powerful and rich and in an age of austerity," he said.
"This decade has seen the backlash of the nerds. We prefer to watch people bake wonderful cakes rather than people saying my life will be over if I don't get this record deal. There are so many more worrying things going on than watching a bunch of desperadoes say their lives will be over if they don't win."