Louis Walsh reveals his dream X Factor line-up, Simon Cowell's pranks and his thoughts on surgery

‘Hello, hello!’ harps Louis Walsh rather tunefully. It’s 3.30pm and our favourite X Factor judge has been working all day, yet he’s dashed to our exclusive photo shoot before heading off to more gruelling X Factor rehearsals. ‘It’s not a part-time job any more – it’s a full-time job,’ says Louis, 62.

It’s loveable Louis‘s 11th year as a judge and he’s been there, done it and bought the T-shirt – the countless fights with Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, plenty of laughs (and tears), the ‘you remind me of a little Lenny Henry‘ moment and that two-fingered salute to the audience when Jedward got booed. Now, as the series wraps up, in his only major interview this year, Louis tells Now why he’s fed up of being branded the ‘joke judge’ and why he’s ready to prove he’s much more than just Simon Cowell‘s court jester…

Louis, it’s finals week! Have you enjoyed the show this year?
Yeah! It’s been more exciting. Simon‘s had a better music team. He wants it to be a bigger, better show so better production, better lights, better acts – better everything! It’s like a different show now.

Who’s been your best friend on the panel this time?
Probably Simon – or Mel B.

Are you surprised how much everyone loves Mel?
No! I was canvassing for her to get the job. I really wanted her to get it. I knew she’d be opinionated and wouldn’t be afraid – I knew she’d say it like it is and she does. She doesn’t plan anything – she doesn’t even know herself what she’s going to say sometimes and that’s scary! She reminds me a little bit of Sharon Osbourne because she says things she shouldn’t say.

Are you disappointed she gets on so well with Cheryl?
No, I’m really glad because it’s a much easier life for me. When the girls don’t get on it’s very uncomfortable because you have to be in one camp. That’s happened before with Sharon and Dannii Minogue.

Who’d be on your dream panel next year?
In the whole world? Wow… There’s Simon and me, so in the middle I’d have Sharon and probably Nicole Scherzinger. Or Elton John.

Why Nicole?
She works so hard. Elton would never do it but he’s very funny and very opinionated.

Who’ll win?
Who knows – it’s up to the public. Ben Haenow I’d watch. I think it will be Ben or Andrea Faustini.


Read more in this week’s Now!

Amy Brookbanks