Am I the only Strictly fan to welcome the news that John Sergeant is quitting the show? It's not that I don't like Sergeant. I too find his dancing bear antics and sausage grin as endearing as the rest of the country, but the judges have a point – the show is about the dancing – just not for the reasons they think it is.
How else could I justify tuning into what is called – mistakenly by the way – a "reality" show, were it not for the dancing? You won't find me camping out in front of Big Brother, and there's no chance I'll ever be able to tell one bland-with-a-big-voice X-Factor contestant from the next.
But Strictly? It's not reality, it's surreality and unreality having a game of fisticuffs on a well-polished dancefloor. To alight on that studio festooned with spotlights and sequins is to fall down a rabbit hole and never, ever want to find your way out again.
The contestants experience this delicious limbo until they lose the dance-off, but for viewers the only way to maintain the fantasy is for as many half-decent dancers as possible to remain in the competition each week.
Which means Sergeant had to go. Not because of all that fussing over footwork and posture and timing that the judges drone on about, but because he wasn't playing the game. His putzy steps and nodding puppet's head, even when partnered with Kristina Rihanoff, a real-life Jessica Rabbit, just don't keep the dream alive.
Where the judges do make a sound point is in stressing the importance of acting during each dance. They emphasise that drama plays a vital role in pulling off a high-scoring performance. To win over Arlene Phillips's carping and Craig Revel Horwood's studied disdain is one thing, but the real job of those contestants is to transport the studio audience and viewers at home to the injured, brooding heart of that tango (as Austin Healey did rousingly last week), and give fans a little flavour of Brazil at carnival time a la Lisa Snowdon's samba, despite its poor reception with the judges.
But that's part of their job. Snowdon has been tipped for the final on more than one occasion: best to knock her off those long legs of hers for a week or two and keep us, and the bookies, guessing. But Sergeant refused to mount the Strictly carousel from week to week. Instead he spluttered along like an old steam engine.
This might have provided the ample controversy that the rest of the BBC could feed off in its many news programmes, but Sergeant's dedication to sprinkling a little stardust over dark Saturday evenings is simply not up to scratch. He'd be great in the jungle eating kangaroo bollocks and wading through slime, and he's certainly got the right pedigree to put Kilroy-Silk's arguments through the shredder but, as he well knows, it's traditional for the portly older fellow who can't dance to go out in the first few weeks, and he had overstayed his welcome.
At last I can relax, knowing that each episode of Strictly might be punctuated with clumsy footwork and ugly timing, but the remaining dancers will be in it not just to win it but to really live it. I want Mad Hatters and March Hares, not bemused Cheshire Cats.
Sergeant's decision to fall on his sword will spark off many a weighty philosophical debate, but at least we're back to the absurd wonderland of Strictly and its attendant circus of improbable lifts and impossibly heavy make-up. I'm going to put the kettle on during his farewell dance.
All I want for Christmas is a Take That poster
Could anything be more perfectly festive than a white Christmas? Indeed: a white Christmas where Take That knock on the door, bringing gifts, good cheer and those all-important twinkles in their eyes.
Sales may have slumped, but the geniuses at M&S know a good formula when they see one, and enlisting the fab four to romp through their Christmas television ad was a masterstroke. I'll definitely head into one of their stores if there's a chance a poster of Jason Orange will be smiling down on me. I'm a little old to have him still pinned to my bedroom wall.
Smith misses the point about prostitution
Lumping all types of prostitute together really bothers me, as it does all the prostitutes who oppose changing legislation to make it a criminal offence to pay for sex with anyone who is not acting of their own volition.
No one wants to re-hash the arguments about whether anyone ever really chooses to be a prostitute (is it any different to breaking one's back on a construction site? I think it is; lots of people don't), but many prostitutes fear that the new rules will leave the field wide open for any number of their cohorts to wind up facing criminal charges – those who rent them a room, for example, or a sexual partner who shares their takings with consent.
These prostitutes are staking out their territory, looking after their own, which is fair enough, and they don't consider women smuggled into the country and forced to have sex with up to 40 men a day as part of their brood. Conflating their work with that of trafficked women binds all the rights and protections fought long and hard for to the disgusting practice of 21st-century slavery. No wonder they feel aggrieved that the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, hasn't really called the distinctions when laying down the new laws.
An attack on the grim practice of buying and selling people should be practical, not verbal, and involve police and immigration officers and a strategy which measures up to the horrific scale of the problem. Throwing a punter indifferent to the provenance of his trick in the clink won't scare the wicked overlords of human trafficking industry.Reuse content