Matthew Jenkin chats to Ann Widdecombe and Craig Revel Horwood as they prepare for a last tango in Dartford.

FOR her numerous detractors, seeing former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe dragged across the dancefloor like a sack of old potatoes on Strictly Come Dancing must have been something of a devilish Schadenfreude.

The former prisons minister, who in 1996 defended the Government’s policy to shackle pregnant prisoners when in hospital, has, since retiring, gone from belligerent battleaxe to cuddly granny.

It’s a transformation so unlikely, it’s practically the stuff of fairytales.

Her next gig starring in panto Snow White at The Orchard in Dartford therefore couldn’t be more fitting.

However, despite now better known for her murder of the dancefloor than berating hooded hooligans, she insists her showbiz ambitions are modest.

“As I keep saying, I have actually retired and I’m not developing a career in anything, least of all dance,” she insists.

Widdecombe will play Widdy in Waiting, the long-suffering servant of the Wicked Queen, played by Strictly’s acid-tongued judge Craig Revel Horwood.

The festive show is, therefore, something of a reunion for the pair who danced together in the Strictly live tour.

Revel Horwood says he can’t wait to boss Widdecombe around on stage.

He said: “I’m sure she’ll get her own back on me, but there is the chance for me to throw her about the floor.

“We’re a good match, particularly for the audience to boo and hiss.”

However, the British tradition of heckling was a shock to the Australian choreographer when he first joined Strictly’s judging panel.

“I actually took it personally to begin with,” he explains.

“But when it comes to the panto I love the booing. People bring big scoring paddles and they’ve generally got ones on them.

“I think people are a bit embarrassed to give me a 10. Even though I deserve it.”

Widdecombe has no illusions about her talent, or lack of it, and it’s the secret of her success.

Because unlike working in Government, her showbiz career has been about consistently delivering humiliating failures not keeping party promises.

She said: “Strictly was about persuading people to vote for me week after week.

“Usually I would do this by heralding a great shambles for the next week.

“You thought that was bad? Wait until you see the rumba!”

I would wish her good luck in panto or should I say break a leg?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at The Orchard in Home Gardens, Dartford, from December 9 to January 7. To book tickets, call 01322 220000 or visit