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She's going to be the real star of the show.

I PREDICT that retired MP Ann Widdecombe will be one of the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.

Not only does she represent the older woman -of which there are many among the viewing public -but she also gives hope to all those with thickened waistlines who hanker after glamour.

I encountered Ann nearly a decade ago when she came to talk at the Examiner Literary Luncheon and found, much to my surprise, that she was a delightful dining companion.

After hearing her bossy, school-marmish tones in the House of Commons, I'd expected her to be businesslike and strident. Instead she was entertaining, and a sympathetic listener.

At the time we met we were both suffering from a chronic form of labyrinthitis -a thoroughly unpleasant condition that causes vertigo and nausea -and had a lot to commiserate with each other about. Ours was an instant friendship forged in adversity and every year after that I received a House of Commons Christmas card from her with a note enquiring after my health.

I know that Ann continued to have problems with the vertigo because her health story appeared in the national newspapers. But, I'm guessing that she must now be fully recovered or she wouldn't have put herself forward for a crash course in ballroom dancing, with all the twirling that it entails.

Ann is one of those 'have-a-go' people with a real zest for life. But she's also reassuringly plump, short of stature and about as far removed from the cloned female glamour pusses - with their glossy ironed hair, fake tans, veneered teeth and size 8 bodies - as it's possible to be. And for that we will grow to love her even more as the weeks pass. The X Factor's Cheryl Cole makes me feel decidedly ugly, old and fat, while Ann makes me feel as comfortable in my own skin as she so clearly is in hers.

What's more, I suspect that she'll become a favourite with the other contestants. I can just see her handing out the hankies, offering words of comfort and applying the Band Aids.


* TROUPER: My money is Strictly on Ann
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Oct 2, 2010
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