Strictly bosses ‘lost the plot’ by casting ‘pro dancer’ Layton Williams, says Dame Esther Rantzen

Dame Esther Rantzen has argued that Strictly Come Dancing finalist Layton Williams should never have been a part of the competition.

Presenter Rantzen, 83, who came eighth on Strictly in 2004, has said that BBC bosses “lost the plot” by recruiting the 29-year-old, who has a background in musical theatre, to compete on the show.

She claimed that Williams has an unfair advantage over the other two finalists, soap stars Ellie Leach and Bobby Brazier.

“A professional dancer like the brilliant Layton Williams should never be given a role as a contestant in Strictly,” she wrote in a letter for The Telegraph. “It’s unfair to all the others, and to the viewers.”

Williams’s experience of dancing in West End musicals, such as Billy Elliot, has led to many Strictly fans criticising his involvement in the competition since it began in September.

In her letter, Rantzen accused Williams of “hogging the limelight… since his first week in Strictly”.

She added: “As an ardent fan of the programme (and an unsuccessful contestant in series two – my deepest sympathy to my dance partner, Anton [Du Beke]) I wonder why the production team seems to have lost the plot this year by recruiting Williams.”

Rantzen argued that former tennis player Annabel Croft should be in the final instead.

“With Williams in the mix it was inevitable from week one that he would be a finalist – so a contestant who is not a professional dancer would be denied their place, and very sadly it was Croft,” she wrote.

Williams recently responded to the complaints about his prior dancing experience in an interview with The Guardian, saying that rehearsals are not as easy for him as it might seem.

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“I’ve taken it on the chin; I get what everyone’s saying,” he said of the criticism. “But if you could be a fly on the wall in this rehearsal room, it’s not easy for me.”

Layton Williams and Nikia Kuzmin

(Strictly Come Dancing/BBC)

Williams also urged those trolling him to put their efforts into something more positive.

He wrote on social media in October: “Instead of coming at me with hateful comments, use your energy to shower your fave celeb with love instead. Pretty sure it will make us all feel much better!”

During an episode of Strictly a couple of weeks ago, Kuzmin said of his celebrity partner: “For me, the thing that I’m most proud of is, [despite] the amount of hate which you receive, you come back to that room, you fight… every single time.”

The Strictly final airs tonight at 7pm on BBC One.

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