My perfect Strictly Come Dancing lineup

Peter Mandelson
Winona Ryder
Christiano Ronaldo
Werner Herzog
Tina Fey
Carey Mulligan
Sachin Tendulkar
Venus Williams
Mark Zuckerberg
Sarah Palin
Prince William
Scarlett Johansson
Tom Cruise
Condoleezza Rice

Obviously.

The return of Mandelson

It was a weird moment to see Peter Mandelson of all people return to the cabinet. Particularly weird, for me, because I had been half-heartedly composing a mental list of the celebrities I would most enjoy seeing on Strictly Come Dancing*, and so far the only people definitely on it were Christiano Ronaldo, Rachel Weisz and Peter Mandelson. He is, one way or another, one of the most intriguing political figures of the last fifteen years.

All the analysis in the papers has been focussed on the electoral logic of it — the need to build bridges within the Labour party seems to be the popular explanation — but I’m not sure I buy that; he’s certainly not someone the voting public have ever warmed to. Perhaps Gordon Brown really does just think that Mandelson is the right person for the job.

Which scares me a bit. Not because I have any doubts about Mandelson’s competence and expertise; on the contrary, because he is associated in the public mind primarily with spin and internal party feuding, I suspect he’s never been given enough credit as a talented politician. No, it’s because if the seriousness of the economic situation was measured in terms of things Gordon Brown is worried enough to do, then ‘cut a fraction of a percent off interest rates’ might be economic DEFCON 4, with ‘nationalise a high-street bank’ as DEFCON 3, and if everything we’ve ever been told about their relationship is true, ‘give Peter a job in my cabinet’ must be about DEFCON ‑27⁑.

* note for Americans: what you call Dancing With the Stars.
⁑ Amusing trivia I learned from the Wikipedia DEFCON article: the British equivalent is called the BIKINI state.

Strictly Come Dancing & Darren Gough

I’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing which, for those who don’t know, is a BBC knockout pro-celebrity dancing competition. Last year it was won by a soap actress, the year before that by a newsreader. This year, for me the pleasure has been watching Darren Gough. Gough is a fast bowler (i.e. a cricket pitcher), and he’s a big beefy cheerful Northern lad. For years, when England were crap at cricket, Goughie could be relied on to wake up the crowd and lift his teammates – but I don’t think anyone ever would have guessed, watching him run in and try to knock the batsmen’s heads off with 90mph bouncers, that he was a natural dancer.

What’s been great, watching him, is that although his dancing is sharp and technically excellent [according to the judges], he never loses the sense of bloke-ish physicality. Doing the jive, he could be a GI at a local dancehall; doing the salsa he could be a Cuban stevedore on his day off. There’s nothing dancerish about it. And he always looks like he’s enjoying himself.

To go off at a tangent for a moment, Brazilians sometimes claim to play football ‘to the rhythm of the samba’. I’ve wondered sometimes if English clubs would do well to take that literally, and to teach the young trainees to samba as a kind of cross-training. If nothing else, it’s good practice at close foot-control and balance.

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