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X Factor winner voted “most influential woman of century”

Leona Lewis beats Pankhurst, Thatcher, Lady Di.

That bastion of quality-free newspapers for Londoners, Metro, has shone an unfortunate light on the average demographic of its readership, with a survey asking them to vote for their most influential female Londoner of the past century. The winner? Leona Lewis, the 25-year-old X Factor winner of 2006.

In a poll to coincide with International Women's Day, Lewis beat some reasonably stiff competition, though it was never going to be a fair fight. How could the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement, or even Margaret Thatcher compete with a pop star who's been in the limelight for a solid four years?

To be fair, Leona Lewis is no marketing gimmick. She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the Italia Conti Academy and the BRIT School, where she learned to play the guitar and piano, writing her first song at the age of 12 and releasing her first album at 17. But it was The X Factor and her mentor Simon Cowell who really made her.

With its £1m recording contract prize, The X Factor helped Lewis's debut single, "A Moment Like This", break a world record after it was downloaded 50,000 times in 30 minutes, going on to become the 2006 UK Christmas number-one single, outselling the rest of the Top 40's sales combined. She's since had three successful albums, sold the obligatory perfume and autobiography, and last year unleashed her own fashion label, whose main theme seemed to be a massive pair of lips standing in for some sort of postmodern boob tube.

But let's not forget that voice, of which the Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick said: "Her mezzo-soprano range allows her to take melodies from luxurious low notes to high-flying falsetto, gliding with elegant power and impressive control through all kinds of fluctuations and modulations." A bit like Whitney Houston, then.

Nonetheless, one still wonders just how she came to be voted the most influential female Londoner of the past century. Not the past decade, or past four years – the past century. Besides Pankhurst and Thatcher, Lewis beat, in no particular order, the likes of Diana, Tracey Emin, Martha Lane Fox, Judi Dench, Vivienne Westwood and even – heavens above – the-Krays-are-all-right Barbara Windsor.

But what's this – a fix? It seems that while the headline for the story reads "Leona Lewis wins London's most influential woman vote", the actual poll appears to have asked its readers, "Who is your favourite influential London woman?"

While few outside of what Metro calls its "valuable 18-to-44-year-old, full-time working urbanite audience" would reasonably consider Lewis more influential than the likes of Pankhurst, it's not hard to see why she might be considered more of a "favourite" than Thatcher.

The fact that Leona Lewis left her Hackney home for a million-pound LA pad almost as soon as the ink dried on her lucrative contract failed to deter Metro readers from voting her most influential female Londoner. After all, she has said that while she loves her Stateside mansion, Hackney will always be her true home. Metro reader surveys: what's to criticise?