Ed Balls has said that appearing on Strictly Come Dancing has pushed him further outside his comfort zone than ever before, despite his long career in politics, and that he is “determined to work hard” to prove his critics wrong.
The former shadow chancellor, who is one of 15 celebrities taking part in the new series of the popular BBC One programme, has also commented on the overwhelming mental tiredness he is battling while training with his professional partner Katya Jones.
He told Radio Times: “I’ve never felt further outside my comfort zone as I have done in these past few weeks.
“Speaking in Parliament or at party conferences as shadow chancellor was always a bit nerve-racking, but I have been writing, speaking or debating about economic policy for 35 years.
“Now I’m having to get used to performing a choreographed jive, or wearing a shirt with the boxer shorts sewn in so it feels like pulling on a romper suit. How on earth did I end up doing this? Well, I said yes to Strictly because I wanted to learn to dance and get fit, and everyone said it was great fun. But goodness, it’s tough.”
He added that, while he was aware his taking part in the programme would leave him physically tired, he revealed his surprise over the mental exhaustion that he has had to cope with.
Ed, 49, said: “Trying to remember all the different aspects of the dance – steps, rhythm, posture, mood, all at the same time – is totally draining.”
Aware that he is this year’s underdog, he said that “no-one is really expecting much” from him, thanks to his “dad-dancing” in the launch show.
He added: “But I’m not in this for the laughs. I’m determined to work hard, do my best and try to improve. If there’s even one or two moves I can pull off and look like a proper dancer for a few moments, it will all be worth it, and I’ll have Katya to thank.”
One of Ed’s early critics is Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli, who has already dismissed his chances of winning the show and compared him to a “hippopotamus”.
Bruno told the Press Association: “The danger is (he’s) going to be the next Ann Widdecombe. I don’t think the nation is ready for another one. I still haven’t recovered from the first one.
“I think I called her the Dalek in drag. He has to top that. Ed – you have to top the Dalek in drag. I want you to be like a hippopotamus in Fantasia.”
The new series of Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One on Friday. This week’s Radio Times is on sale today.