Strictly's Craig on Kevin Clifton's return & Maisie being show's best dancer

THEIR feud became the stuff of legend backstage at Strictly, as Craig Revel Horwood regularly butted heads with professional dancer and fan favourite Kevin Clifton.

But it seems the acid-tongued judge has more than a soft spot for Kevin, who has told BBC bosses he would consider returning to the show after he quit back in March.

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The dancer intended to launch a stage career, but the Covid pandemic has now seen his earnings nosedive.

In an exclusive interview, Craig said: “I have been missing Kevin on the show.

“I do miss the people who go against me because it makes such good TV and is a bit of banter — and Kevin always provided some entertainment.

“I know when he did his final dance ever on the show he thought it should have been a ten, and I gave him an eight.”

The marks Craig gave Kevin and his dance partner Stacey Dooley — now his girlfriend — during the final of the 2018 series led 38-year-old Kevin to confront the judge backstage at the show wrap party.

The outspoken dancer, who received tens from the other judges, admitted afterwards he had feared Craig’s comments could have ruined their chance of winning.

However, the pair went on to victory and Craig, 55, revealed that away from the show he is actually Kevin’s biggest fan.

He said: “Kevin won the day in the end — he got the leading role in my musical, Strictly Ballroom. He is laughing all the way to the top of the leaderboard now.

Withering putdowns

“When he auditioned he was spectacular. I don’t think people realise how good his singing and acting is. I can’t wait to show him off on a big pedestal next year when we begin.”

Craig has been on the judging panel since the show began in 2000 and gained a reputation as its “Mr Nasty” due to his withering putdowns. But he agrees he has become nicer over the course of this series, much to the amazement of his co-stars on the panel, Motsi Mabuse and head judge Shirley Ballas.

He said: “Yes, I have been nicer this year, darling, but there hasn’t been much to complain about.

“They’ve all been so good. My point of argument is always that I judge what I see.

“And if it is really bad I will tell them why it is bad and what needs to be changed. But that hasn’t happened this year because they’ve all been amazing.”

He is referring to actress Maisie Smith, Good Morning Britain’s Ranvir Singh, singer HRVY, reality TV’s Jamie Laing and the show’s dark horse, comedian Bill Bailey, who is now tipped to win.

Craig says: “I don’t want anyone to leave this time. I have always said before, these are the people who should be in the final but this year I think it could be anyone’s game.

“Normally at this point I know who the winner is going to be because they have been the best all series. But honestly this time, this year, I have no clue.

“Bill Bailey came in all guns blazing and knocked me for six. I never saw him coming, not in a million years. I really thought he would be the Ann Widdecombe of this series.

“You could teach someone the same routine but Bill has his own special sort of flair with it that just makes it brilliant. I’d love Bill to win. It would be so cool if the audience totally fell in love with him and got him to win.

“But Maisie is one of the best dancers I think we have ever had on any of the series. She is spectacular. And HRVY is up there too. He is incredible. And Ranvir is amazing. They all have something different.”

And last night viewers saw Maisie get her first perfect score of three tens, after her streetdance routine with Gorka Marquez. Craig said: “I’ve been waiting all series for that — thank you.”

This year’s competition almost didn’t make it to air but BBC bosses implemented a range of Covid safety measures to make sure it could get off the ground.

Craig said: “Getting Strictly on air during this time was a brave thing to do but it’s proved live television shows can go on during these times.

“Being pushed into the creative corners has been fantastic for us too. We’re not putting on some terrible show.

“With Strictly you have to put on a better show than before and I think we’ve managed to do that.

“We have an audience again now and for the final we will have an audience. It’s so nice to welcome them back in. My jokes have been getting tumbleweed reactions — you don’t know if the jokes are landing or not and that has been the difficult thing.

“It has been so odd. I am so used to the audience reacting but the professionals have been fantastic. They’re all sitting there and booing me.”

The changes also saw Craig’s good friend and fellow original judge Bruno Tonioli unable to join the panel in person, though he has featured via video link during the results show every Sunday.

And Strictly stalwart Anton Du Beke replaced Motsi after she was forced to miss filming over coronavirus restrictions.

Craig said: “It was so nice they finally gave Anton the chance to be a judge, and he was spectacular. I’d love to promote him to be a judge but at the same time, I would miss his dancing.

“Thankfully we have been seeing Bruno on Sundays. He loves having a dig at me on the panel and he is the only one that can really, as we’ve been doing this for so many years together.”

Another major thing missing from this year’s series has been a proper romance between partners.

Craig said: “Well, darling, it is going to be a bit difficult for romance because you can only eye someone up across the room and you can’t mix with them.

“But there is always next year for what they call it, the curse. Not that it is a curse — look at all the wonderful relationships that have come out of it.”

But despite the prospect of a return to normality next year, Craig is happy to take some of the new rules forward.

He said: “I love being two metres from people. Normally when you’re out and about, everyone wants to touch you, loads of people are climbing all over you.


GIOVANNI PERNICE is keen to be involved in the next same-sex pairing on the show.

Katya Jones made history after she partnered ex-boxer Nicola Adams.

Giovanni, 30, said : “It’s something I would love to do. All the pros would love to be in a same-sex couple. It’s very creative and a challenge.”

“That hasn’t happened this year and it has been very nice. From now on I will claim the two- metre rule, darling.”

  • Craig will be appearing in Robin Hood at the Bristol Hippodrome from December 18.


BETTING is hotting up on who will triumph this year. Betway’s Chad Yeomans said: “Despite not topping the leader board, Bill is evens to take home the 2020 Glitterball trophy.”

And here are the odds:

Bill Bailey 1/1; HRVY 13/8; Ranvir Singh 4/1; Maisie Smith 10/1; Jamie Laing 50/1

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