Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

X Factor's Simon Cowell wants to run election debates

Simon Cowell on bringing the X Factor to politics

X Factor judge Simon Cowell has said he wants to run a series of "prime time" TV debates on key political issues ahead of the next general election.

The music impresario told the BBC he wanted to create a "bear pit" atmosphere, with a live studio audience and viewers voting via telephone.

The debates could deal with subjects including capital punishment, the Afghan war and immigration, he added.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said he welcomed attempts to promote democracy.

He added that Mr Cowell and others would be encouraged to offer ideas.

More than 10 million people voted for the Factor final on Sunday on ITV1, with more than 19 million watching the show.

'Could do it'

Conservative leader David Cameron and Lib Dem counterpart Nick Clegg have said they are keen to take part in a US-style televised debate ahead of the next general election, which has to happen by 3 June next year.

The prime minister has also said he is willing in principle to take part in televised leader debates, focusing on specific issues.

However, Mr Cowell's proposal is less like a presidential-style forum and more like X Factor, won this year by Joe McElderry, a teenager from South Shields.

I get to a point sometimes where I get overloaded
Simon Cowell

He told BBC Two's Newsnight he wanted to put on a show where a large studio audience was divided up according to its view on an issue.

There would, he said, be a red telephone to allow politicians to ring in to state their case.

Asked whether capital punishment might be included as a subject, Mr Cowell said: "Well, we could do it. We could ask the question."

Will Young, a winner of X Factor's predecessor Pop Idol, appeared on the BBC One political discussion show Question Time last year.

Mr Brown faces Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg most Wednesday lunchtimes for prime minister's questions in the House of Commons.

But Sir George Young, the shadow leader of the Commons, has recently suggested moving it to Thursday evenings, where it could compete with the likes of Eastenders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and The Bill.

Watch Newsnight's interview with Simon Cowell on Newsnight on Monday 14 December 2009 at 2230GMT on BBC Two, then afterwards on the Newsnight website.

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