WHERE: Cecil Sharp House, Camden
‘I’ve been pilloried for the last two weeks for my girth and lack of dance expertise,’ says former Labour shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, referring to his Strictly Come Dancing appearance.
- Read on for more Strictly gossip, how Ed attended his own funeral and his biggest regret
‘I’m not expecting lots of men aged 45 and over with bellies to choose to go on Strictly as a result of what I’m doing but they might decide to sign up for a dance class with their wife as a result because it’s something they’ve always wanted to do.’
An audience member asks whether his participation is a reflection of his narcissism, risks a loss of dignity and a desire to once again be in the spotlight?
‘How could I look back in 20 years’ time and say I turned down something so fabulous as learning to dance in such an intensive way. Jeremy Vine told me it was easily the best experience of his life.’
Balls is certainly putting the hours in: seven hours today, eight yesterday and 40 the previous week. Is he enjoying it? ‘I think so. Although I’ve never been so pummelled and pushed around in my life.’
He describes each day of dancing as like running a marathon but with the added complication of how mentally demanding it is also.
He recalls a moment on Strictly‘s launch show where he asked the audience what they thought of him and they were concerned for his wellbeing. This made him determined to express outwardly how much he was loving it. He’s also ‘teetering on the edge’ of daubing himself in fake tan.
He also remembers the moment in May 2015 when he woke up to find out he was not only not going to be the next Chancellor in a Labour government but that he was no longer an MP.
‘After the result I was with around 25 members of my campaign team and they were talking to me like I’d died. We even toasted my death with sherry as if it were a wake. But it has been a new beginning for me. Definitely a big change and liberating.’
Balls is being interviewed by psychologist Tanya Byron on the contents of his new book and she describes as bullying the treatment he received at the hands of his Nottingham classmates when moving there from Norfolk as an eight-year-old with an odd surname.
Years later he came out as suffering from a stammer on the Today programme after being criticised for a lack of confidence in his own arguments against the Autumn Statement.
Asked about his biggest regret he says: ‘A failure to be more myself as a politician.’
It’s something he is likely to be doing a great deal to rectify if his time on Strictly is lengthy. He’s certainly not afraid to poke fun at himself. Speaking about raising £160,000 by running marathons for a stammering charity, he adds: ‘I may be the slowest runner in the family but I’ve raised the most money. I was once beaten in a marathon by a lady who hula hooped the entire 26 miles round.’
- Picture via Facebook courtesy BBC Strictly Come Dancing.
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