Will Cheryl Cole return to British X-Factor? We need to know

Thank heavens for the broadsheets, asking the questions to which the British public needs answers.

Cheryl Cole, our dimple-cheeked Queen of Talent Show Hearts, has been dumped. Dumped, I tell you. And a nation mourns. Our transatlantic cousins, we are told, struggle to get their ears around her Geordie diphthongs, and fail to see the attraction of the Cornetto-legged former Girls Aloud warbler.

First, they threw away our tea – now, they throw away our talent show judges! How could the Yanks reject our big-haired Princess of Pop? How could they? How could they eschew the breezy charm of the nation's favourite much-misunderstood songstress?

Well, this means war. No more shirtsleeve barbecues for our great leaders. No more speeches from Barack Obama of such great historical resonance that they cause Ken Clarke to drift into a gentle slumber. (Though, to be fair to him, it wasn't "classic" sleep, where one goes to bed in pyjamas and a nightcap, and therefore shouldn't really be considered sleep at all.) No. We are now at war with the United States. This is Colegate. This is serious.

You might say to me, "Oh come now, Baxter, you and your so-called words in your so-called blog, what are you on about? This isn't a serious business, is it? This isn't worthy of discussion." You might be one of those people who decides that certain subjects are not fit to be talked about beneath certain mastheads, deeming them somehow low culture and unworthy of inspection.

But I am not alone in recognising the seriousness of this event, the magnitude of Ms Cole's ejection from the US X-Factor, the true enormity of the tossing aside of this once-great talent of our fair shores by those ignorant folks on the other side of the Pond.

As ever, the broadsheets take apart the real issues of the day, wondering if she should return to the British X Factor as a nation comes to terms with its grief. But we have moved from denial to anger swiftly, and the highbrow news outlets want to howl over the corpse of Cole's Stateside career. This isn't just a story for Daybreak viewers, but Radio 4 listeners. This is a big deal.

Catherine Gee in the Telegraph wondered: "How could the Americans do this to our national heroine? Was it her hair (too large)? Her voice (too Geordie)? Her personality (too boring)?" Stuart Heritage in the Guardian had similar fears: "Maybe it was the accent, maybe it was the colossal hair, maybe it was the time she wore a dress that was quite similar to Paula Abdul's."

The Independent's Adam Sherwin pointed the finger at Simon Cowell, saying: "When the ruthless music mogul decides the show must go on, but without one of his star protégés, the end is usually swift." But the BBC's Fiona Bailey added a sinister note to proceedings: "As the news spreads across the pond, back home in the UK, some fans are wondering whether her role on the show was a glorified PR stunt."

Rejoice, rejoice!

A PR stunt, you say? Good God. Next you'll be telling me that Denmark hasn't banned Marmite, despite all the acres of newsprint devoted to Denmark having apparently banned Marmite earlier this week, which entirely coincidentally gave a shedload of free publicity to the yeast spread.

Would Simon Cowell really be that sly? Would Cheryl – our Cheryl, the harem-panted angel of our hearts – really be willing to be part of such subterfuge, or is she just a pawn in Cowell's devious masterplan? Oh, Cheryl. Are you merely a tiny cog in Uncle Simon's big machine, or are you his cackling sidekick? We must know. We have to know.

Of course, you see what's happened here. I started off with every intention of avoiding the "why did Cheryl Cole get dumped by America, you heartless brutes?" article, and snidely making fun of people who churned out such pieces for the broadsheets, as if I am somehow better than them even though I'm considerably less successful than they are, yet I've ended up doing it myself. I could try and climb on to a high horse and say that news should just be about Libya or Ratko Mladic, but I know that's not sensible – I'm just as interested in this as everyone else.

So what's my theory? Do I adopt the tinfoil hat and see Cowell twirling his villainous moustache? No, I don't think so. Some people just don't travel well. It's probably not the accent, or the hair, or the dimples, or anything like that; she's just not famous enough, or popular enough, to be as well liked over there as she is here.

Sad, but their loss is our gain. We get to have our Cheryl back. The tabloids (and the broadsheets) rejoice.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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