X Factor judge Louis Walsh has stuck by his decision to vote Laura White off the show last weekend, which sparked fan protests.

The 21-year-old singer was left in the bottom two with Ruth Lorenzo on Saturday's edition of the ITV1 show and got the boot after her performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Some 12,000 people have signed an online petition to have Laura - a favourite to win the show - reinstated while the likes of Lily Allen and culture secretary Andy Burnham have expressed their shock at her being voted off.

But Walsh, who was accused of tactical voting by fellow judge Cheryl Cole, has defended his decision to send Laura home.

"No one in the bottom two ever wins The X Factor, that's just a fact," he told the Sun newspaper. "Laura was never going to win."

Cole had alleged Walsh voted against Laura to improve the chances of his act JSL winning the series.

"I think it might have been a bit tactical if I'm totally honest with you," she said on ITV2's the Xtra Factor, following Saturday night's result.

Walsh rubbished Cole's claims, saying: "Laura was in the bottom two. Her performance was bad and her styling was even worse."

He added: "She didn't get the public support and got three votes from the judges."

Laura lives in Mr Burnham's constituency of Leigh in Greater Manchester and he described The Departure of the "wonderful and talented" singer as "very harsh".

Allen, meanwhile, said she had been left "quite upset" by the show.

"Laura didn't deserve to go in my opinion, neither did Ruth (my personal favourite)," she wrote on her MySpace page.

Diana Vickers, who missed last Saturday's show due to laryngitis, is now favourite to win the current series of the ITV1 talent show.

"Diana will be seeing the doctor again on Friday and will hopefully get the all-clear to perform on Saturday's show," said an ITV spokesman.

11/11/2008 13:27:12