A front-row seat for Mandelson as 'Strictly' finalists spin into action

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The Independent Online

Lord Mandelson of Foy will have a front-row seat at the final of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing this evening. The Business Secretary, a dancing enthusiast, had said on the BBC's Breakfast programme that he watched stumbling contestant John Sergeant, a former political editor of the BBC, with a "degree of envy".

There have been suggestions over the past few weeks that Lord Mandelson might be invited to compete in the next series. Yesterday an aide dismissed reports that he would be taking to the dancefloor in an impromptu cameo on tonight's show. An expected 12 million viewers will tune in.

Sergeant, who acquired the label of a "dancing pig in Cuban heels" after weeks of abuse from judges, will return to the dancefloor with his partner Kristina Rihanoff as each contestant gives viewers a final performance.

But all eyes will be on voting procedures after controversy dogged last Saturday's show.

The competition was thrown into chaos after the singer Rachel Stevens and model Lisa Snowdon finished with the same number of points, meaning that regardless of how much support Holby City star Tom Chambers received, he couldn't be saved from the "dance-off".

Viewers promptly bombarded the BBC with hundreds of complaints at the decision to allow all the couples to remain in the competition. The BBC has offered them refunds, although the votes will be carried over.

Bookmakers William Hill predict that by 6.40pm at least £1m will be riding on the final. "We are experiencing record betting levels as it is a wide open competition and any of the finalists could win," said a spokesman.