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Reality TV Interview

Ann Widdecombe ('Strictly Come Dancing')

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Strictly (Sat 9th Oct): Ann Widdecombe

© BBC

Compared to the Ark Royal, haemorrhoids, a canary, a Dalek in drag and Vera Duckworth's gran, Ann Widdecombe's Strictly Come Dancing adventure has certainly been eventful. Her performances with Anton Du Beke divided opinion as she upset the bookmakers and marched to the quarter-finals. However, after an underwhelming American smooth, the viewers finally unseated the ex-MP yesterday. DS caught up with Ann last night to celebrate her experience.

I thought you were a shoo-in for the final Ann - are you sad to be leaving?
"I am a bit disappointed that we didn't get another week. I thought we had another week in us. In reality, I didn't think that we would get through the semi-finals. We would have tried, but I didn't think we would get through. I thought it would happen this week or next week. I hoped it would be next week, but that's the way that the cookie crumbles."

Were you not thinking about the final, showdances and winning?
"I hadn't got that far, but I did think we had another week. But it wasn't supposed to be and that's why I'm here talking to you."

Are you slightly relieved that you won't be doing three dances in next week's semi-final?
"I think I'd have been okay with the three dances, but I am relieved to be getting my life back. I think what people may not realise about Strictly is that it is full-time. You do three days a week solid training, two days a week in the studio, Friday and Saturday. This is a full time occupation. And then you do all the other things to do with the show like It Takes Two and all the press. I have at least got my life back. People have said 'what are you going to do today?' and I've said, 'I've got to do my Christmas cards!'"

Your comedy partnership with Anton has proved very popular. What has he been like to work with?
"He has been superb. Without him I wouldn't have got past week two or three. First of all he has been inventive. It was all his idea to have me fly. I was the first ever contestant to fly on Strictly. He thought up all the spectacular moves and lifts. He thought up the Titanic theme last week. He just said, 'we'll have an iceberg, we'll have some fog, we'll have a ship's bell and we'll have a wind machine for your scarf'. He's got a hugely fertile comic imagination. He comes up with the ideas and then I do them! We were a tremendous partnership."

Did you ever turn down any of his ideas?
"I more or less just let him run wild. He did want me to stand on his shoulders at one point, but I said, 'not with my height phobia, Anton!' He would drop what he knew I wouldn't do and the limits that I set at the beginning about no suggestive moves and that sort of thing, it never, never caused a problem."

Will we ever see the flying final showdance that you had planned?
"I don't think you will see it now. Anton had been thinking about the showdance from the moment that we realised we were riding on a wave of popularity. He was always thinking ahead, which was why he was coming up with such great routines. Other teachers were thinking about the now, but he was looking to the future, what we could next and what hadn't been done before. He's a wonderful choreographer."

Why did you agree to take part in Strictly?
"I went on the show for fun and I've had more fun that I thought I would have. It's been a terrific start to retirement. I never expected the public reaction to be as big as it was. And I never expected to enjoy the whole experience. Apart from the group dance - that almost made me think I had made a mistake - the moment that I went into single training with Anton, I haven't got a single bad memory. It has been fantastic."

And now you are addicted, because you are going on the tour...
"Do you know what decided me? It was dancing with Craig. My agent phoned me and told me about it and I just collapsed laughing. I just could not resist. I was wary about being away from home for four weeks, but dancing with Craig was the clincher for me. People want to see that and it will be very funny. I mean he's even taller than Anton!"

Did Burno's 'Daleks in drag' upset you at the weekend?
"I actually found it quite funny! No, I was never offended. I can't recall it if I was. I think from week five, when we did the Paso Doble and I didn't put a foot wrong, the week that the judges were completely negative and Craig gave the 'OMG' comment, I just thought, 'actually I needn't bother'. After that, I just thought about pleasing the audience."

Do you think more politicians should follow your lead and do reality shows?
"I am not a politician! I have quite a hard task on this one. I keep saying to people, 'look I'm retired!' But people seem to think I have a job as an 'ex-politician'. And I say, 'who is paying me for this job?' I am not a politician. I did other things when I was an MP like Have I Got News For You, but I didn't do this very big pantomime act while I was there. It wouldn't have been right. I've left. It's got nothing to do with being a politician now. It's about being Ann Widdecombe: retired and enjoying it."

Who are you tipping to win?
"My money has been on Matt almost from the beginning. He came into this competition as a gymnast, able to do back flips while the rest of us were learning one-two-three. And given that there will be a showdance in the final, he will be able to do things that nobody else can even think of. On Saturday, he actually went backwards off the judges' platform onto the dancefloor. Nobody else can do that sort of stuff! I think he will probably win, but I don't know! I would have predicted that we would have had another week, but I got that wrong.

The Strictly semi-final kicks off on Friday at 9pm on BBC One

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