I couldn't bring myself to write the update to Getting Over The X, instead I felt it would be better coming from the man who helped so much in putting my thoughts down on paper, Tony Horne.
In 2014, I finally felt confident to release the book once Max Clifford was behind bars, and in 2015, after long internal debates I finally reported my abuser to the police. I also reported to the IICSA what happened when I spoke of the abuse to my Syco appointed manager in 2005. If you don't know, interviews with The Sun and Closer were buried and I was banned from any further interviews. Shortly after the success of a number one album I was dropped and threatened by Max Clifford not to speak to the press.
There is a certain irony that 10 years on from Max Clifford's threat "Talk to the press and we will bury you" I have received much press in 2015. My fifteen minutes of fame has become a decade of infamy.
I am fully aware that anything I say will be seen as ten times worse than it is or taken out of context but I chose to continue this course of action to highlight the propaganda and biased reporting in the mainstream media. I have no faith in Leveson Inquiry and don't even bother with the body that replaced the PCC.
All I ask is for people to compare what the press has reported on me and what they've chosen to ignore.
What Happened Next by Tony Horne
I awoke on Christmas morning 2015 to find that the book had risen to number 14 on Amazon.
‘It meant more to me than having a number one single a decade before,’ Steve told me.
This was something that was him, not manufactured or manipulated and, most importantly, people did want to read it.
When Getting Over The X hit the shelves that November, the fun and games really began. Firstly, Steve was well received on his radio tour. The interest was genuine and he often stayed longer than was planned – indeed, ended up being a weekly contributor to Ed Roche’s show in Ireland.
The radio guys got it. They sat there every day cutting through hype and were experienced enough to dismantle the process on air each December. Like me in my daytime job presenting, many of them were hearing records they didn’t want to. Equally, they could spot almost every layer of ‘manufacturing’ going on in the show.
TV was different, with the sole exception of Matthew Wright’s The Wright Stuff on Channel 5. He had always been supportive, and welcomed Steve as one of his three panellists in the week of the launch.
Elsewhere he was regarded with suspicion! The producers at Lorraine on ITV were briefly interested in having him on, but only if pre-recorded. Steve was too dangerous to go out live. Neither of us ever really believed it was going to happen anyway, with that show being part of the ITV stable.
Against Steve’s better judgement, I almost persuaded him to do a serialisation deal with The Sun newspaper. One school of thought was that if we somehow could trust them, then we might have an element of control over what was written. The £5000 offered was laughable. The deal collapsed – if indeed it had ever really been on. I couldn’t see that a newspaper that employed Dan Wootton, who had been particularly acidic to Steve over the years and still was seeing X Factor stories as bread and butter, was ever seriously going to do anything pro the book.
Of course, you will be disbelieving that it was even an option given everything that we have written in the previous pages. As I say, it was a once in a lifetime gamble in a bid to overturn a decade’s nonsense.
As I write this a year on, I am really glad for Steve that he backed himself and that deal didn’t happen. The suspicion was that the paper, always so pro-Simon, just wanted eyes on the manuscript.
It is important to include this detail because that narrative which we explained in the first edition of this book still prevailed. Max Clifford may have been inside, but his legacy lived on. Steve was still persona non grata in the eyes of the written press. Not one piece of printed mainstream media wanted to write about the book, and any who tried were kyboshed by their own editors.
I know this as I have the email trail, and the usual pattern would start on a Thursday where we would be told ‘it is going in this Sunday’, only for Sunday to never come.
You can read that and say ‘Brookstein is still bitter’. I hope that is not your conclusion. I am just demonstrating that the ridicule still existed and that journalists still didn’t want to know the truth, not one daring to ask Simon Cowell why he had employed a sex offender in Max Clifford.
The beauty is that in today’s world we didn’t need print media to spread the word about the book. Social media did it, and by and large I have to assume that those people who spent money voting for Steve in the show were supporting him brilliantly again.
Of course, I couldn’t know how the book would do. But what did become apparent very early on was how much more fun Saturday nights had become.
TV shows were encouraging people to tweet using appropriate hashtags. We couldn’t wait to pile in once the opening credits rolled on the show!
Two particular moments stand out from the social media. The first is that we were not alone. Far from it – people were wise to the show. Nothing exemplified this more than the portrayal of the winner Ben Haenow, who from the off was that van driver, just like Andy Abraham was a binman and Steve was a pub singer! The public got it.
Almost nothing had changed in a decade. It was the show that belittled you and bigged you up. They could make or break your dreams and save you from your humble existence and then put you back there.
The other extraordinary exchange came from Tony Cowell, Simon’s brother – a man, you may recall, who wanted to write the book!
One Saturday, he had begun following me on Twitter only to then take me on in public, and block me. I was just minding my own business critiquing the show when suddenly Tony began trolling me.
‘Not sure you are in any position to criticise X Factor or my brother, given you had to help write Steve Brookstein’s book,’ he tweeted.
That was the moment I knew we had won. Not that it was my intention to see it in those terms, but when the man who wanted to pen Steve’s story starts having a pop, then it really is game over. I am sure the media strategy inside Simon’s camp would have been ‘Don’t even acknowledge the Steve book. Do not give him the oxygen’, yet here we were playing it out in public in an unprovoked attack.
Did that book he never wrote still rankle?
Naturally, I was relieved when the first few reviews came in. Five or four stars on Amazon were neither here nor there. It was the trouble that people went to and the passion in the words they used which really gave me heart. We had done the right thing.
One review turned into ten. I remember calling Steve when we hit 50. Then it became 100 and, by the time you read this, we will have passed 400 reviews. That is a lot of commitment, especially when so many people have already taken the time. It takes a lot of effort to be bothered to add your own comments when 400 reviews are already there.
But people were bothered. I don’t know if it was because they had voted for Steve and wondered what happened, or were naturally suspicious of the show, or if we had just moved into an era when some of the secrets of the past were being turned over when traditionally they had been buried.
On that very note, Steve, too, made a visit to the police station to finally name the person who had abused him.
Anyone in this situation will find it hard to explain why the moment was suddenly right all these years on. I believe the book cleansed his soul and gave him confidence to come forward.
I did laugh at some of the negative reviews on Amazon. I say this as politely as I can, but the small minority of individuals who read the book and labelled Steve as bitter, I could only conclude were still buying the Max narrative.
One delightful comment suggested that he should have known what he was getting into by going on the show – remarks which have the benefit of having watched it for a decade and forgetting that there had been only a couple of series of Pop Idol when he applied in 2004!
I don’t want to dwell on Amazon love. The objective thing to do is to try to work out if anything changed because of the book, outside of how Steve felt.
To underline the latter, every time any new individual read it or reviewed it, I felt anything from justice to satisfaction. I wouldn’t be bringing Simon or the show down anytime soon, and I often told Steve to hope the show carried on but died a very public death, and that every year as the ratings nosedived, more and more people would read the book.
Steve only wanted to go on the record, explain press manipulation, and outline the process for people who voted for him or who might be looking for your vote next time around. The job was done. I was more than content.
In the real world, he still had some of the same obstacles.
Steve was due to meet BeBe Winans again for a long-awaited reunion in London in the autumn, but suddenly found himself on the end of more industry nonsense in the shape of Chris Bartholomew at Paradise Promotions who contacted him as a representative of a children’s charity playing on his Christianity in a bid to get BeBe and Steve recording for him.
In one of the worst email exchanges I have seen – and there have been a few – Bartholomew threatened to ‘bury’ Steve (how very Max) and demanded his deposit back after Steve had booked musicians and studio time before emailing BeBe himself attempting to rubbish Steve, calling him ‘arrogant’, ‘unprofessional’ and with ‘no manners’.
Indeed, he did actually email to say: ‘I will make sure you never work again. In fact, I will, in Max’s inimitable words, bury you!!’
The double exclamation mark was a nice touch. He was still buying that Max narrative. From the email trail, it looks as though the book was the reason he wanted to pull out after approaching Steve.
‘The charity are the ones who will be brought into disrepute… when Steve’s book comes out on 24 November.’
I think, one year on, we can see that was nonsense.
On 5 December 2014, The Guardian did run a piece on the book. We weren’t overly keen to do it. That paper had a tendency to throw a curve ball, but equally they didn’t conform to all those tabloid rules, so Steve agreed to meet Decca Aitkenhead.
Her opening headline was good, referring to the ‘Cowell-Clifford conspiracy that...killed his career’. In real time we were just eight days away from Ben winning this year’s show ahead of Fleur who seemed odds-on for the whole series.
For the first few paragraphs she did well, alluding to some of the themes of the book. Then she put the knife in by referring to the proposed serialisation with The Sun:
‘…and I don’t like the Sun, but I was talked into it,’ ’cos apparently I mustn’t appear bitter,’ he says, rather bitterly.’ (The Guardian)
That was the tone of the piece.
Then she went for it, labelling Steve ‘humourless, arrogant, hubristic and resentful, isolated in the toxic fog of his perpetual huff about the unacceptable priorities of a primetime entertainment show’.
She did refer to the Sinitta incident and called the book ‘entertaining’, but you felt she meant for all the wrong reasons. She also reported the Max influence in the Closer/News of the World incident, but it just sat there on the page. Nobody else had the courage in the media – still – to challenge this notion that Max was stopping certain very important truths getting out there. Think about where Max is now, and why, and draw your own conclusions.
After all, Decca had jumped to her own about Steve, referring to ‘anger’ and ‘it seems clear to me that he has mental health issues’.
This was the killer blow and 400+ people took to the Comments section, largely in disgust. Suddenly it exploded.
Is she a doctor? Is this actionable? How is a national newspaper allowed to diagnose people in an area of health, which is a sensitive subject and coming increasingly under the spotlight?
Read it back, Google it… See if you think that is appropriate, whatever you think of Steve and the book. Is it really acceptable that a journalist who almost seemed to get the themes of the book finds that ‘it seems clear’ Steve has ‘mental health issues’?
I will leave that one with you.
I suppose the secondary part of this is that other media people who had ridiculed him were now thinking that not only was he ‘fair game’, but he might also actually go along with it this year.
I refer to the almost annual request to appear on a game show.
Sure enough, on 4 December 2014, Ali McDonald at 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown emailed to say that six days later they were recording a Christmas special.
‘It’s just a bit of fun and we’re hoping it may appeal to his sense of humour’.
I assume they were thinking he would agree this time, desperate to push the book.
I looked at the potential script. It was a nativity scene where a few things had gone wrong. Some character called Joe Wilkinson was to deliver the following hilarious punchline:
JOE: Ironically he’s come dressed as one of the Wise Men, apparently… But worst of all is he couldn’t find a shepherd/a baby so instead he hired Steve Brookstein!
Suddenly Steve sits up from inside something he has been hidden in.
JOE (to FABIO)
What were you thinking?
Can I sing everyone a Christmas song?
No chance, mate. Get him out of here.
Fabio pushes Steve and plastic animal off the stage.
Let’s just get on with the show. LET’S PLAY COUNTDOWN!
Well, obviously Steve couldn’t possibly agree to appear in a sketch as entertaining as that. He would surely let the side down through side-splitting laughter at the comedy genius of it all.
No, the answer was still no. Nobody should be a cheap punchline to get them out of a weak sketch.
At the bottom of the proposed script came the usual pally sign-off:
‘So that’s it, the date is December 10th, we record in Manchester at MediaCity. We record in the evening at 7.45pm. Ideally we would have Steve for a rehearsal earlier.
It’s a really big slot for the channel and it’ll be a funny funny show. What are your thoughts?’
Steve declined, of course, though this was not the last time we would hear from them. And they were not the only ones coming out of the closet. If ever there were a truer phrase.
Sinitta messaged Steve on 17 November 2014 asking what trouble he was starting and saying she was ‘gonna kill [Steve} for that mess’ he put in the book, adding ‘are you crazy?’
Steve sent her one back, saying he had tried to contact her but she didn’t reply.
‘I really needed to talk about it. Trust me, read it. It’s not that bad,’ he responded.
He had given her a chance to have her say before the book went to print. It was only now she wanted to be in touch.
I took that direct message as though we were in the clear. There was not one element of Steve’s story that was embellished or fabricated, but obviously we were dealing with powerful people. Sinitta was not denying that incident.
In the New Year, when much of the book hype and the show bandwagon had calmed post–Christmas, she messaged Steve again to say she was hurt. She said she ‘always stuck up for you [Steve]… she did that to you not me… why did you include me?’
Steve then followed it up with a private message saying, ‘Seems to have blown over’. Steve simply replied, ‘Judgement Day is not with me or Simon but with God. Good luck.’
Again, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
As 2015 began and Andy Coulson was walking the streets again, another person in Steve’s story was not! Christopher Matt, who you may remember persuaded him to meet in Birmingham, was jailed.
He was a plumber but mostly a fantasist. He was convicted of sexual assault after luring a woman to a hotel room in her belief that he was a film director and she was about to star in a remake of that Sharon Stone scene from Basic Instinct. He was so good that the poor woman was persuaded to pay for the room, believing she was about to receive £5,000 for her casting.
He was jailed for three years and two months.
You couldn’t make it up. Possibly it was an excessive sentence compared to some of the people in the book. Either way, it only served to confirm the level of lunacy in the X Factor story.
As the year rolled on, it was clear there had been crisis talks on the show. Louis was finally gone. So was Dermot. Even the voiceover Peter Dickson was reported as no more. Sacrificial lambs were aplenty. Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw from Radio 1 were in. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack were the new hosts. Peter Dickson did actually turn up on the new series.
It reeked of the obvious and the obvious meant desperate to me. Just as Neil Fox – as I write, currently awaiting trial himself – was a Pop Idol judge when he had been host of the Network Chart, Simon had plunged for the Radio 1 Breakfast Show presenter, a well-connected man without the radio broadcasting stage presence yet of his predecessor Chris Moyles. Surely this meant that nobody on commercial radio in the UK was going to talk about Grimmy?!
That two hosts were now needed to replace Dermot I felt was an admission that perceived innovation was greater than substance. Of course, there were a couple of subplots here. It took me back to Steve’s early conversation over a decade before when it was mooted he might wish to present. That was not Steve! He wanted to sing his heart out. Others wanted to mould bits of a talent into a botch job, and with Caroline Flack having moved from ITV2 on The Xtra Factor to win the rival show of Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, it came full circle.
TV was fickle and here was a person who probably came to fame on X Factor then went to the BBC, only for Simon to drag her back to ITV. Rita Ora too had come from The Voice.
For both of us, so many changes were papering over the cracks. Gimmicks in the process of making a TV show underlined the lack of authenticity within it. I knew it was failing, but long may it continue to do so in public.
By June 2015, unbelievably 8 Out of 10 Cats were back in touch. They really loved Steve in an ‘I hate you’ kind of way. I am sure Jimmy Carr had more jokes than just those about Steve, though it served as proof that he was easy fodder and without consequence. If The Guardian could imply he had mental health issues, then anyone else could say what they wanted. Despite these shows having rigorous lawyers in tow, there were no boundaries. It was still OK to attempt to destroy.
So, on 8 June 2015, Alex Gilman made contact:
‘Each week on the show we have a guest in Dictionary Corner who reads out bits of literature, provides their own poems, tells anecdotes, etc. This week we have Rob Beckett coming on the show who would like to bring up a series of different book covers from War and Peace to David Copperfield. One of the other books he would like to bring up is Steve Brookstein’s ‘Getting Over The X’.’
This was sent to Steve via a third party.
‘I therefore wanted to ask if you might be able to speak with Steve and ask him if he would give us permission to use his book on the show?’
I suspected they might use it anyway, but to our knowledge they didn’t. Steve toyed with saying yes on the basis that he might be seen to be fun, but declined on the basis that he didn’t want to appear fake and that a cheap laugh with people pretending to be onside was just that. Lifting from the book did not mean explaining it or understanding it, it just meant more cannon fodder.
It was extraordinary, though, how many times people from this show – either when they were working on it or had moved on – carried that gene that he was fair game and would presumably agree to it. There could be no conclusion other than they wanted to take the piss, overlooking the fact, of course, that any X Factor show, even in decline, would get at least double the viewers they would achieve on Channel 4.
June and July were always months we would have associated with the beginning of the end for Steve’s relationship with Simon and the label. That is not to say he was dwelling on it, but it was always only a matter of time before someone from the press would realise that the new series was actually just weeks away and he would get the first contact from some eyelid-fluttering journalist thinking they were the most original people on the planet ‘writing a feature about former talent shows’ and how they ‘would love to get Steve’s input’ on it.
And this year’s award goes to Lynsey Clarke, ‘Woman Writer’ at… you guessed it… The Sun.
Were they just thick-skinned and ignorant that they assumed he would do it, or were they genuinely new in the job, naïve to what had gone before?
Steve sent this reply:
‘Ten years ago, I had a Number 1 album and single. Soon after I was dropped based on a lie spun by Max Clifford. The Sun stopped a story that was in the public interest and I was branded bitter and a flop. All I’ve ever wanted was an apology from all those involved in spinning the lie. My book explains what happened and has been pretty much ignored by mainstream media. Ask Simon why he had his ex-girlfriends come on to me in his dressing room? Did he know about the story stopped in The Sun? You’re a journalist. These are things that people really want to know about. Not whether I am singing in pubs or on cruise ships.’
She replied that she was not aware of what Steve had mentioned, but still went on to reiterate that she was ‘just trying to catch up with former X Factor / Pop Idol contestants’.
And next year, I am sure the same will happen again.
It didn’t matter anyway because by 7 July 2015, every newspaper slaughtered Steve.
‘Ten years ago, I was heading home from Barcelona and New York after celebrating my Number 1 album. Totally oblivious to 7/7 attacks,’ he tweeted.
Of course, I am bound to say he was, and that is the truth. Steve was returning home, reflecting on his own issues and admitting them to his parents whilst coming to terms with the fact that his record deal was likely to end.
Your interpretation of those words depends – I suppose – on how you feel you know him and his story. Some will inevitably have remarked, ‘Well, I read his book and I sympathise but even that is a bit too much.’
Others apparently were ‘disgusted’, and then there are those who will say ‘I don’t remember that day either. I was on a plane, in a meeting, generally uncontactable and it was only when I got home that evening that I truly understood what had happened.’
The facts of the matter are that news of the terror attacks on London were the only story that day but for various reasons… from several of the attacks being underground, communication blunders because of that, an agreed news line, and a telecommunications shutdown on parts of the mobile phone network, people came to the story at a different pace.
For Steve, it was when he landed home and was shaken and disbelieving as everyone else was. Many people have messaged both of us to reflect this, and when he tweeted he was just sharing his own recollection as many people did on that day. He meant it to show the highs and lows of life, and to demonstrate that many people spent much of the day at least partially unaware. Just ask any of the emergency services on the day.
Suddenly it was front-page news. Most papers ran it. Steve stands by that tweet, but he knows that its tone appears sarcastic and tested a press that would happily lift from his timeline to put the boot in, rather than investigate issues he had exposed.
It obviously served no purpose to belittle 7/7 but it enabled them greatly to pursue their agenda. As with a decade before, there was only one story on the tenth anniversary and it wasn’t Steve. I have no reason to write this, by the way. I was actually publishing a book about 7/7 on the day.
By a quirk of fate, the 2015 arena auditions for X Factor began the next day. They had been scheduled for 5 July but Simon’s mother passed away, so they began on 8 July in Manchester.
According to reports, the schedule soon became a mess. The rescheduling and the various commitments of the new judges meant that it was hard to get them all under one roof at a time when the show really needed all of its new and rearranged talent to star.
Rita Ora and Caroline Flack couldn’t make that first day and London on 14 July, then had to be postponed because of the bereavement. By 15 July, Flack was filming Love Island in Spain and on the evening recordings up to 20 July, Nick Grimshaw reportedly had to leave early because of his early starts on Radio 1.
Cowell had missed the 17th due to illness, and on the 20th it was claimed that Cheryl had burnt herself on some tongs and filming was delayed! A few days later, Rita Ora was gigging in Italy, completing the set.
I knew the punters would see very little of this mess in the edit, but you could view it as anything from not ideal to the wheels were coming off.
Whilst all this was going on, Steve began dialogue with the Hugh Grant-fronted Hacked Off who campaign against press intrusion and inaccuracies following the Leveson Inquiry.
He was actually furious this time about the 7/7 tweet story. There were three parts to it which were typically poor or inaccurate.
Firstly, the Mirror in particular had used a picture of him smiling with a blown-up bus in the background. I felt that was a million times more disgusting than anything he had tweeted. The ‘Photoshopping’ of the images made it look as though he was happy about 7/7. There, is of course, no evidence to suggest that.
Then, various articles cited that ‘fans were disgusted’. Were they? As far as I could see, the disgusted were not even followers and those making comments were just random accounts on Twitter. I am pretty sure his ‘fans’ saw his tweet for what it was.
Finally, Getting Over The X was a book in which he slammed Simon and featured his struggle to stay in the spotlight.
It is easy to conclude that someone who was once on a Cowell label and writes a book has therefore ‘slammed him’, but I am pretty confident that the story details the process, Steve’s desire to make real music (over being in any spotlight) and the subsequent parting of the ways, and any ‘slamming’ is really reserved for the media manipulation behind the X Factor bandwagon itself. Read it back! You will see how many times we said he enjoyed being on the show.
But what of this year’s intake? There was already talk that Louis was going to replace Grimshaw. You just couldn’t rule it out.
More significantly, we discovered a blog by a young singer named Cory Spedding. She claimed to have been set up after being approached by the show’s producers who discovered she had been at school with Rita Ora.
She had attended an open audition in Carlisle and sung before producers for a mere 30 seconds at the point before which it was known that Rita Ora would be a judge.
The next thing that happened was that she received a call to say she had been shortlisted to audition before the actual judges at the arenas, even though she knew there were about four more stages to go with producers before you even got that far.
Supposedly informing X Factor that she was to try out for The Voice, doors appear to have opened for her.
Cory appears to have told Daily Star that her 90-minute conversation with a producer seemed to centre on how very close Rita and she were at school, when in fact she underlined that they were just two people who were part of a very big group of acquaintances. Cory also expressed her fear that the Rita situation would count against her.
When she walked out to audition, Rita miraculously recognised her immediately and, after Cheryl stopped Cory mid-flow, Simon said that he felt it wasn’t fair with Rita and her knowing each other… even though the show had reportedly asked her to audition. If the story is as represented, then little had changed.
Curiously, Cory’s blog post soon disappeared.
It didn’t look good.
Steve had been contacted personally by many ‘contestants’ at various stages of the show over the years, but one email more than any other touched us both on 10 August 2015. It came from ‘Shirlee’ about her son.
He was, by all accounts, a talented 25-year-old singer-songwriter with some credibility on YouTube and aligned to a London studio.
Despite saying he would never, ever audition for X Factor, this young talent was scouted after being discovered online and persuaded to give it a go. He performed briefly in front of Syco’s top talent scout Barney Addison and subsequently poured out his heart on his drug-fuelled past.
Barney gave him a hug and said he could make no promises.
The next day a phone call revealed that this contestant was on the shortlist followed by another to say he would be on at Wembley in front of the judges in a couple of days’ time. So his parents set off to London only to receive a tearful call from their son, who explained that his studio had said it was not a talent show but a TV show, and that he shouldn’t do it and that the press could destroy him.
At the same time, a researcher had been back on explaining that there were two lists of people at the auditions – those to watch who were going through… and the rest (presumably who were there to make good TV). He was on the first list.
Despite being told he was making the biggest mistake of his life, the singer pulled out. He is continuing to strive to make it. His mother has since read this book and thanked Steve for explaining the process and expressed her utter relief that her son was not part of it.
‘I just thank God he didn’t do it,’ she signed off.
Well, it was a Sliding Doors moment, and you can’t know what will ever happen except to say that history will record very few success stories from the show and many more who come out damaged.
Almost to the day, Brian McFadden, the former Westlife singer, started having a pop on Twitter, much to our amusement.
‘This @stevebrookstein account has to be a fake. Even the real Steve Brookstein wasn’t this much of a prick,’ he wrote.
In a way his tweet was genius because it underlined totally how the waters had been muddied through press portrayal. Remember, it had all begun with Sharon calling Steve fake, so if you believed her the only real Steve that people knew was a charade! And naturally people bought that myth and ran with it.
But what Brian McFadden didn’t have – like many who cut and pasted and were quick to conclude – was context. His comment was in response to this tweet:
‘Those kids moaning about Ted Heath touching them are just bitter. They need to get over it. Jesus it was years ago.’
We both understand, of course, how it can be difficult to assess someone’s tone in a tweet, but if you thought about it, the clues were all there.
Steve was referring to the long-running whispers about the former UK Prime Minister and in this Operation Yewtree culture how many stories that were beginning to emerge particularly concerned high-profile figures who were no longer alive.
The Ted Heath story, whether proven or unproven in time, has been doing the rounds for a long time. Ditto Savile.
But there are three giveaways in the tweet. Firstly, Steve is not about to use the word ‘bitter’ in anything other than an ironic context, given that it is the label attributed to him!
Secondly, as you will see from this whole story, we do not really joke about abuse, and thirdly, having been there, Steve of course understands that it never goes away. If you are smart enough to realise that the tweet parodies that Westminster ‘Middle England bury it under the carpet mentality’, then you have no problems. Otherwise, you are just more of the same.
By now, of course, we were both long past caring about a spat like this. In fact, I could laugh but only because it was so risible that the reporting of a tweet of Steve’s about such serious issues had again replaced investigative journalism into those very issues.
As if the story was repeating itself, Rita Ora in October 2015 led a front-page story claiming she had been abused at the age of 14 but ‘it had boosted her confidence’.
It was both an incredible claim and extraordinary how full circle the PR had come from Steve being buried on this issue to a judge on the show making it well and truly alive.
And we didn’t have to wait long before the same pattern as 7/7 happened as Steve joined in on the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. Once more The Mirror said he had left fans disgusted, which is kind because I didn’t think they believed he had any. Steve was also ‘fame-hungry’!
In fact, the truth is that he could not believe that something so personal had become the latest social media fad, as his first tweet explained:
‘Oh God, Twitter does it again. Go on then, be proud, shout it out.’
And then the paper dragged up how he had disgusted ‘fans’ at 7/7 and took it even further back to 9/11 where he had once apparently said ‘9/11 was an inside job. Don’t forget it.’
Nothing better exemplified the domino press mentality than that. The 7/7 tweet, which had nothing to do with the atrocities but was merely a personal recollection, had transcended into that superimposed photo of Steve next to the bus at Tavistock Square and now was written up as fact in relation to another non-story where he expressed his disbelief at how even abortion had found a level playing field on social media.
That meant, of course, that when Steve tweeted that ‘I aborted my pop career as I was trapped in an abusive record deal. My shame stops today,’ he both meant it as he saw it in those terms and was being ironic, too.
By the time the winner of the 2015 series has been announced, no doubt this will have repeated itself yet again.
And who that winner would be, we couldn’t know. For once this year, Steve had barely seen anything to do with the show other than their ratings on Twitter reporting that it had experienced its worst launch show since 2006.
To make matters worse, Strictly was so relaxed that it waited the best part of a month before it began in earnest, and Simon temporarily lost his Saturday night berth in favour of World Cup rugby, which ironically actually had the X Factor championing nearly 9 million viewers in a sport ITV only covered on their main channel every four years.
It remained to be seen if they would find a star this year or if the contestants were aware of just how poorly the show was performing. If this were to be the last series, what did that mean for the actual winner? Would they quietly disappear or could they be the biggest thing on the planet, free from the shackles of the show?
I noted one thing at the time of writing. Simon had the Over 25s this year. Meanwhile, Sam Bailey had been quietly released and Ben Haenow had barely reappeared before the live shows.
The final word goes to TV critic Kevin O’Sullivan who on 8 November 2015 tweeted:
Notice how The X Factor judges praise the wannabes’ “vocals” and never their voices. They’re so reluctant to say the word Voice. Wonder why.
It had just emerged that ITV had signed up the rights to the BBC’s The Voice.
This was only going to end one way.