Ed Balls – we've enjoyed your time on Strictly Come Dancing, but please don't return to politics

As if encouraging voters with no previous distinct leaning to root for characters they’ve become familiar with in reality shows has not caused enough trouble in 2016 already? Trump’s time on The Apprentice cajoled a nation into believing he really does have the answers for everything

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The Independent Online

So, farewell Ed Balls, catapulted this weekend off the Strictly Buckaroo, leaving all of our Saturday nights a darker, less silly place. And the silliness was important. Gosh we needed that silliness.

Patently, there is a serious moral conundrum surrounding Balls’s decision to turn his back on politics, in the midst of domestic and global calamity, choosing instead to dance “Gangnam Style” in the manner of a drunken football mascot wrestling his way out of an owl costume.

Indeed, his experience in finance, and of Whitehall, as well as a communicator could have been probably been used elsewhere. But still, there is vast spiritual nourishment to be found in What Ed Did Next after losing his seat, after pouring his entire campaign team 30 shots of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. He flicked two fingers at his fair-weather constituents in the most grandiose way imaginable.

“You reject me?” he appeared to cry triumphantly, “Ha! I shall dance to “Great Balls of Fire” on primetime BBC1 like your naughty Uncle Trevor on a Sandals Montego Bay second honeymoon”.

Ed Balls performs Gangnam Style on Strictly

Much of the exquisite joy of Balls’s Strictly tenure was found in the distinct dearth of damns he gave about holding back or saving face. He lost himself in every song slung in his direction. On week two, there was not a viewer in Britain unclear that Balls was channelling the spirit of a gadabout Charleston dancing, gingham-shirt clad farmhand. “The Banjo’s Back in Town!” he told us and, by God, we were too scared to argue.

None of us shall forget his unmentionables clanging about in a wholly unholy way in white linen slacks during “Love Potion No 9”. The crescendo of his and Katya’s “Gangnam Style” routine skirted the boundaries of decent family viewing, but never mind, because whether Balls was Cuban Pete, Charlie Chaplin or simply asked to dangle from a piano 40 feet above the dancefloor, he came at the task with a puckered lip and his pelvis in full thrust. There is something terrifically British about this entire tale. 

The place where I feel duty-bound to pee on the Ed Balls bonfire is when people say that he should forget about his role as chairman of Norwich City Football Club and now re-enter politics. Because, well, what a wonderful platform he has to connect with the atypical voter? He’s turned people on to politics! As if encouraging voters with no previous distinct leaning to root for characters they’ve become familiar with in reality shows has not caused enough trouble in 2016 already? Donald Trump’s time on The Apprentice, reading scripted lines and adhering to cues, cajoled a nation into believing he really does have the answers for everything.

It pains me to feel I need to explain to some people who are qualified to vote that simply because Ed Balls was convincing that “The Banjo’s Back in Town” doesn’t mean he should replace George Eustice MP as Minister for Agriculture. Neither does Balls samba-ing to “Cuban Pete” mean he should re-stratify our post-Castro foreign policy.

For politicians, reality TV really should be viewed as a final hurrah at the end of a lot of semi-tedious paper pushing. It should launch a spin-off career as a personality and a pundit. And until now almost all politicians dabbling mid-career in the likes of Big Brother or I’m A Celeb – Galloway, Dorries, Opik – have done little to bolster their reputations or voting prowess. But quitting politics entirely, enlivening a million viewers with your high kicks and bum wiggling, then touting for votes on the back of this sets a dangerous precedent.

Nigel Farage has failed to become MP on seven occasions. Perhaps all this might change if viewers could only experience his snake-hips dancing the rhumba erotically in tight white slacks. Perhaps Balls should stay away from Westminster and stick with his new role in football. 

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