In the UK, what gets people talking passionately isn’t Brexit. It’s not Trump. It’s not even the May government’s looming Autumn Statement mini-budget this week.
It’s whether former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ed Balls, can pull off an unlikely win of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Overnight, Balls survived yet another elimination to make it to Week 10 of the Strictly competition on nothing but a whiff of greasepaint and a hell of a lot of chutzpah. Talent hasn’t come into it!
Strictly is top viewing for Poms, pulling in audiences in numbers Australian TV networks can only dream of. As with its inferior Australian rip-off version, Dancing With the Stars, it thrives on publicity-seeking soap actors, faded athletes and other B-grade celebrities. Nevertheless, there’s always a few amateur hoofers who not only surprise, but stun, with their unsuspected dancing ability.
There’s also always a novelty contestant, someone who’s as far from showbusiness and talent as you could find. They’re comic relief, to be laughed at, praised for their British pluck and then voted off after a few weeks’ national amusement.
This year, that novelty contestant is Balls. The only problem for the BBC is his performances are so excruciatingly bad the British public is getting behind him as he bottoms the leader board each week, voting off better performers to keep him and making a mockery of the pretence of Strictly to be a serious ballroom dancing competition.
Balls is now so deep into the competition, and his sympathy votes keep coming in, that he could actually win it. His heavy-hoofed and cheesy performances have carried him to the cusp of terpsichorean glory. If you want to see the Balls phenomenon for yourself, just view him, er, ‘performing’ to the very apt Great Balls of Fire. There’s more ham from chubby Ed than ever was found in Paul Keating’s legendary piggery.
Ed Balls is merely a former pollie, having unexpectedly lost his seat in the 2015 British election, and with it any chance of taking the Labor leadership after Ed Miliband. But if DWTS were ever revived in Australia, why not stick a dance floor and mirror ball in the House of Reps and put a few current politicians to the Balls test?
Malcolm Turnbull, immaculate in white tie and Q and A bomber jacket, could ooze a foxtrot with Julie Bishop, the Tina Sparkle of Australian politics. Bill Shorten could flap up a Charleston with Tanya Plibersek, which requires so much fancy footwork that nobody could work out just what they’re up to.
Tony Abbott, conservative as ever, could waltz a box step on his own until some partners are brave enough to want to dance with him again. On the judges’ panel, Peta Credlin would always give him a perfect 10.
The One Nation senators could turn their in-fighting into a four-handed choreographed ballet, while Nick Xenophon hogs the camera doing a Greek plate-smashing dance.
And Christopher Pyne would be there too, sashaying across the floor and wearing anything spangling with an overload of sequins and diamantes. He has so much confidence in his talents, and so loves the spotlight, he wouldn’t even need a partner to show off his brilliance.
A political dance-off. Surely that would be a better use of Australian pollies’ energies than the farcical mess they’re serving us up in their day jobs.
If Ed can make succeed at Strictly, let’s get Malcolm and his troupe to trip the light not-so-fantastic. At least they can’t make as big a Balls-up of everything as they’re making now.
Terry Barnes is visiting the UK and is hooked on Strictly Come Dancing