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Speaker election gets X-Factor makeover

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The winds of change are sweeping through a dusty Houses of Parliament as the race to succeed the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin hots up.

With MPs trying to get their house in order as the expenses scandal rumbles on, the election procedure for the new Speaker has had a makeover, with election hustings to take place for the first time.

Organised by the political research charity the Hansard Society the hustings will televised, with would-be candidates publishing manifestos and campaigning ahead of a secret ballot by MPs.

So far so good.

Until that is you peruse the list of the 11 candidates jostling to succeed Martin.

Did Yasmina Siadatan deserve to win “The Apprentice”?

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown might be having a hard time with women, but there is clearly no glass ceiling in his good friend Sir Alan Sugar’s boardroom.

“The Apprentice” final saw Kate Walsh and Yasmina Siadatan go stiletto-to-stiletto — “You’re the best that I’ve ever had in the final in this boardroom,” said Sugar.

Should Alan Sugar have been hired?

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Among the surprises last week, as one cabinet minster after another stepped down, was Gordon Brown’s appointment of Sir Alan Sugar as the government’s Enterprise Tsar.

Was this a sound decision, several analysts wondered, or was it a possible case of Brown seeming to confuse the worlds of politics and show business, hoping perhaps that what works in the studio would work just as well in the real world?

“The Apprentice” is a one-horse race

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At the moment it looks as if only one person can win this series of BBC One’s “The Apprentice” – and this is Kate Walsh. The 27-year-old is the only candidate with any natural flair for business and has shone in every task. Last night’s episode was no different.

With 10 weeks gone and just six candidates remaining, Sir Alan Sugar decided it was time for “one of my favourite tasks”. In other words, the one that made the wannabe apprentices (and us watching at home) the most uncomfortable. Both teams were then told they would be thrust in front of a camera and expected to sell products on live TV.

Apprentice: Who do you want to win?

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alex.jpgFour finalists — three losers.

We know what happens to the winner — they go off to work for Alan Sugar on 100,000 pounds-a-year in a rather drab Essex office.

But what do the three losing candidates do after they see the finger raised and hear the words “You’re Fired”.

“Apprentice”: Not just about sales

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The four finalists aren’t that bad really when you meet them.

They, and many of the other candidates, may have come across as back-stabbing bullies during the series, but in a brief meeting with Alex, Lee, Helene and Claire this week, I found them courteous and lucid.

Helene, who did so well in the interviews with Alan Sugar’s business colleagues, again came across as plausible.

“The Apprentice”: Did Alan Sugar bottle it?

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lee.jpg“The Apprentice” this week reached one of its regular highlights — the interview stage, when some of Alan Sugar’s business colleagues go through the candidates’ CVs and grill them on their strengths and weaknesses.

This week did not fail to disappoint. But did Sugar?

Was he cunning in his decision to take the unusual step of keeping four in the final, instead of the usual two, or did he just bottle it?

“Apprentice” – I’ve yet to change my views

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michael-ferrari-3.jpgAfter a tired Michael lost the spirit for a fight in the boardroom, what was there left to him?

His boardroom badgering — a mixture of begging, bragging and belligerence – had kept him in the show against all the odds for at least three weeks longer than could have been reasonably expected.

“Apprentice”: Raef, too posh to push

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raef.jpgWell, another favourite leaves “The Apprentice”.

First, soldier Simon falls victim to a lack of imagination, then former public schoolboy Raef goes because he went all arty.

Raef, you were just too posh to push the “tacky” tissues.

Tasked with branding and advertising a box of tissues, he couldn’t bring himself to go for slush.

“Apprentice”: Gushing bridal salesmen

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helene-in-wedding-dress.jpgI’m always amazed that anyone buys anything from the teams on “The Apprentice” – let alone the single most important purchase a woman may buy in her life.

People have bought lollipops, cars and even a wheelchair on the show in the past - but a wedding dress?

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