x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sergeant leaves show despite his popularity

Winning the dance competition "would be a joke too far", he says.

LONDON // A political journalist who has captivated much of Britain by his appalling dancing on the BBC's most popular television programme quit the show yesterday. Although the judging panel had repeatedly tried to vote off John Sergeant, 64, from Strictly Come Dancing, a Saturday evening dancing contest where celebrities team up with professional dancers, the public's phone-in votes had saved him week after week.

Despite the fact that he has been branded "the dancing pig", the amiable, portly Sergeant looked as if he might actually go on to win the competition, thanks to dozens of internet campaigns to get people to vote in his favour. But his success at the expense of far more competent performers also led to mounting criticism that Sergeant, formerly political editor of ITN, was making a mockery of the whole basis of the show.

In a statement yesterday, he announced he was pulling out. "It was always my intention to have fun on the show and I was hoping to stay in as long as possible," he said. "The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me, that would be a joke too far." The judges, who were clearly getting increasingly annoyed that their determination to get rid of Sergeant was repeatedly being thwarted by the public, have described Mr Sergeant's dancing as "appalling" and "a disaster".

His decision to quit, thus saving the BBC from further embarrassment, does not mean that his millions of fans have quite seen the last of him. He and Kristina Rihanoff, his Russian dance partner, will appear on Saturday's show for a final, farewell dance. dsapsted@thenational.ae