Jonathan Van-Tam on Strictly rumours: ‘It would be like watching Jumbo on ice’

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·2-min read

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has dismissed suggestions that he could appear on Strictly Come Dancing, saying it would be like watching “Jumbo on ice”.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, whose colourful metaphors have become a staple of Downing Street’s coronavirus briefings, has been touted as a celebrity contestant on the long-running BBC One show.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes is currently offering odds of 5/1 on him signing up for the next series.

Strictly Come Dancing
Strictly Come Dancing hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

However, during an appearance on ITV News, Professor Van-Tam batted away a question about the rumours.

He said: “I think it would be rather like watching Jumbo on ice. But I don’t want to spoil the bookmakers’ books, so I’ll say no more than that.”

Prof Van-Tam was referring to the famous 19th century circus elephant, reported to be the inspiration for Disney’s Dumbo.

Jumbo was at one time owned and displayed by circus owner PT Barnum, whose life inspired the 2017 musical The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman.

If he appeared on the dancing show, Prof Van-Tam would follow in the footsteps of other political figures such as Ed Balls, Ann Widdecombe and Edwina Currie.

Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour Launch – Birmingham
Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing (Joe Giddens/PA)

Strictly professional dancer Janette Manrara is among those to have backed calls for him to appear.

She told Jeremy Vine on Channel 5: “I feel like he could be really good in ballroom because he’s quite elegant.”

The softly-spoken professor regularly appears on television wearing pinstripe suits, distilling complex science into easily understandable language.

He has often drawn on metaphors to ensure his point is made, comparing the vaccine rollout to waiting for a train in the wind and rain, and the hope of an end to lockdown to penalties in a game of football.