Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell clash as X Factor returns

Sparks fly between X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell when he brands her a "brat" in the new series which starts tomorrow.

At one point Cowell even puts out a saucer of milk for his "catty" colleague.

After Cole tells one disappointed group they should consider a career in children's television, Cowell sarcastically demands: "Have we got any cream?".

When he catches her pulling faces at him, he tells her: "You're a childish little brat."

The pair also exchange words backstage and Cole admits she is missing Dannii Minogue after she is left on the judge's panel in London with Cowell and Louis Walsh.

Guest judge Geri Halliwell steps in for Minogue on the Glasgow show and makes quite an impression. The mouthy former Spice Girl leaves her fellow judges lost for words as they struggle to get a word in edgeways.

The show returns for its seventh series with its trademark mixture of the tone-deaf, the talented and a host of sob stories.

But it was Halliwell who caught the eye of show bosses, who compiled a montage of her breathless opinions for the first episode which was screened at the launch of the show which aims to find a star to follow names such as Leona Lewis and Joe McElderry.

Judging by the reaction of her fellow judges, the constant references to her time in the Spice Girls and off-the-cuff advice to contestants about their "tone" soon wore thin.

At one point Walsh moans to the cameras that "Geri talks and she talks - some of it makes sense, not all of it".

After watching a particularly poor act, Halliwell says: "I don't know what to say," to which Walsh retorts: "That's a first."

First contestant was house-husband Stephen Hunter whose mixture of soulful vocals and dancing last seen at a 1980s school disco set the tone for the rest of the show.

Despite missing his cue, the 41-year-old - who promised to "give it everything" - got the thumbs-up from all four judges.

Among the potential stars already identified was Gamu Nhengu, an 18-year-old student who left her native Zimbabwe for Scotland five years ago.

Her version of Katrina and the Waves' Walking On Sunshine wowed the judges with Simon Cowell praising her "old school jazz voice".

Not everyone did so well and one tuneless trio in London left the judges stunned into silence with a performance Cowell later described as "possibly the worst group we've ever had on this show".

Other potential stars included a singing waitress and a devoted Freddie Mercury fan who was given a rare second chance after her attempt to sing like her hero fell flat.

Minogue will rejoin the show but her place was taken at the auditions by a series of guest judges including former Neighbours star Natalie Imbruglia, singers Pixie Lott and Katy Perry, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.

Cole admitted she enjoyed the support of the guest judges, saying: "It's lovely for me that there are other women on the panel because I couldn't be sitting between those two miserable so-and-sos on my own. I love having other women with us."

Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq has signed up as the new host of The Xtra Factor on ITV2.

The contestants are divided into four categories, boys aged 16 to 24, girls aged 16 to 24, over 24-year-olds and groups.

:: The new series of The X Factor begins at 7.30pm on Saturday on ITV1.