Joe McElderry, the 18-year-old winner of this year’s X Factor contest, was reportedly subjected to homophobic bullying at school.

The singer, who won victory last night with 61 per cent of the vote, was called ‘gay boy’ at school, an ex-girlfriend said.

Carly Dilbert, 19, told the Sunday Mirror: “He hated it. It really upset him.

“He was adamant he wasn’t gay. But they kept on saying it. It was just kids being cruel, but it was hurtful to Joe.

“He had tons of female friends. He wasn’t into sport or anything like that – and he got bullied because of it. The boys would call him names like ‘mummy’s boy’ or ‘gay boy’ – and laugh at him for hanging around with us girls.

“All the girls liked Joe more than other boys so maybe it was jealousy.

“He won the bullies round with his sense of humour and his funny nature.”

McElderry is now likely to clinch the Christmas number one with his single The Climb.

He also got the chance to duet with George Michael last night. Other stars including Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams performed on the final show.