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UK Politics

Liberal Democrats condemn BBC chiefs over Strictly Come Dancing row

BBC bosses were condemned at the Liberal Democrat conference today over the axing of Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.

The party's equalities spokeswoman Lynne Featherstone said she would not be able to describe her feelings about the decision "in parliamentary language".

But she told delegates in Bournemouth the decision to replace the 66-year-old choreographer with 30-year-old Alesha Dixon sent out a bad message about not valuing experience.

In a keynote speech Ms Featherstone said the backlash over the decision was not fair to Dixon and laid the blame at the feet of senior BBC figures.

She said: "What on earth are we doing when we throw someone of Ms Phillips' experience - one of the world's foremost choreographers - on the scrapheap in favour of someone young and pretty - no offence to Alesha, and I'm sorry she has had a rough time, it's not her fault, it's the BBC bosses.

"What message do we send out - other than that we don't value what is important but we pay homage to the fleeting, the superficial and the desperate quest for youth."

Ms Featherstone said the UK should draw inspiration from Barack Obama to conquer discrimination.

"Let's agree here and now that anything is possible, whether by small practical steps or by great leaps of inspired Obama-like faith.

"Because if a black kid in America can rise above the noise, the prejudice and the class divides to become the President of the United States then anything is possible."

Ms Featherstone said the Liberal Democrats' pupil premium policy would offer a "life-changing opportunity at school by injecting funds where they are most needed".

The party's plan to remove names from job application forms would also help tackle discrimination.

"It costs nothing, and by removing the name from job application forms we remove from that very first sift the unconscious prejudice that sadly lurks in us all."

Ms Featherstone said mandatory pay audits would help close the gender pay gap which sees women paid less than men.

"That would put power into the hands of an individual to see for themselves whether they were being discriminated agains," she said.