Jacqui Smith says she’s not going to Balls up her Strictly Come Dancing chance thanks to advice from her pal Ed.
She says her former Labour colleague Ed Balls, 53, has been on hand to share tips from his time on the BBC series.
He left his mark on the 2016 competition with his unforgettable routine to song Gangham Style – and Jacqui’s hoping she’ll do the same.
“I’m not sure I’ll be going for high technical skill but Ed Balls called me when it was announced that I was going to be on the show and gave me some brilliant advice,” told former MP Jaqcui – who was the country’s first female Home Secretary.
“No-one can compete with Ed’s ‘Gangnam Style’ but he said to me, actually embrace it and really go for it and try hard and I promise you that is what I’m going to do.”
At 57, Jackie wants to show older women they can still learn new tricks.
“I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is doing something completely different,” told the mum-of-two.
“At my time in life what I want to do is demonstrate that it’s possible for you to do new things, it’s possible for you to learn new things and have new adventures.
“The whole thing, whether that’s the fabulous costumes, the make-up and hair, the fake tan, the dancing, these are not things that have been part of my life really before and the opportunity to embrace all of these things and make the most of it.
“I just think it’s a fabulous opportunity for me and I hope it says to late 50s women that everybody can have a new adventure, even when you think perhaps I’ve been through a difficult time or I’m getting older, NO!
“We can all have new adventures and when we do we have to make the most of them.”
Used to formal wear and suits, Jacqui says she’s embracing the changes in her wardrobe.
“I’m loving it,” she beamed. “The outfit that I’ve tried on today is covered in sequins and not usually the sort of thing I would wear to the office but this is Strictly and I’m totally going to go for it. The wardrobe people have succeeded in making all of me go appropriately in a super fabulous outfit.”
Worcestershire-born Jacqui worked under PM Gordon Brown but resigned as Home Secretary in 2009 following her involvement in the expenses scandal after claiming a room in her sister’s house was her main home.
She then lost her seat as an MP for Redditch in the 2010 general election.
After leaving the House of Commons, she remained in public life as a political pundit and took up roles in various other sectors, such as health and media.
She says she’s doing Strictly for her NHS colleagues – who say her appearance has “lifted” them.
Jacqui told: “One of the jobs that I do is working with the NHS, chairing a very big NHS trust in Birmingham, Solihull, and nobody has had it tougher than those people on the frontline in the NHS this year.
“When they heard that I was going to be doing Strictly they were super excited and lots of people from the trust have said to me: ‘We are so excited we feel really proud and uplifted that you’re doing it’ – so I think the fact that Strictly is able to be on this year when all of us have had to miss out on doing a whole load of things so much has made a lot of people feel optimistic and happy about it.”
After spending years battling against political opponents – Jacqui says facing the likes of Craig Revel Horwood, 55, Shirley Ballas, 60, and Motsi Mabusi, 39, will be a breeze.
“I was an MP for 13 years, a minister for ten years so I’ve faced plenty of criticism in my time.
“I hope that I will listen and learn (on Strictly) but I also, of course, have argued. Let’s wait and see what happens!”