Joanne Clifton: Strictly judges were right to send Aston home instead of Mollie – but Craig should never have given a 4

After one of the biggest shocks in Strictly history, former Strictly professional Joanne explains why Aston was the right celebrity to go and how the judges can't be wholly blamed

Strictly jo clifton

Well, what a shocker that was. I still can’t get over Aston Merrygold leaving this week. I feel like I don’t have any words – but I’ll try!

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So in the dance off, Mollie King did dance better than Aston. If I was judging it – and the rules are you that you have to go on that single dance – then yes: I would’ve agreed with Craig Revel Horwood and Shirley Ballas and sent Aston home as well.

It’s unfair for the public to now put all this blame on Shirley; I’ve read tweets that she’s getting a lot of harassment for picking Mollie over Aston. From a professional dancer’s point of view, Mollie did dance better.

The problem was that Aston shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

I mostly think it’s because people didn’t pick up the phone, but when I tweeted that I got a lot of comments back going, ‘Rubbish, it’s because Craig gave him a 4!

And, yes, they are right – it might not have been a good dance, but it wasn’t worth a 4. What was Craig doing? That was drastic. At the very least, Craig should have given Aston a 6 if he wanted to give him something low. But not a 4.

Aston Merrygold on Strictly Come Dancing week 7 2017
Aston Merrygold on Strictly Come Dancing week 7 2017 (BBC)

Craig’s mark was very exaggerated and he needs to buck his ideas up with his marks. I would honestly like to get him face to face and have words with him! What was that score about? Help me understand what your reasons were for that, because we all thought it was ridiculous.

But maybe he thought Aston was safe as well? Maybe Craig thought, ‘Aston is the best dancer in the competition – I’m going to give him a 4 to give him a wake-up call because that dance wasn’t very good, so that next week he comes back fighting’.

Although it might have been intended as a wake-up call, actually it damaged Aston and put him in danger.

I do understand that the judges are looking at the individuals and judging them on their own ability, but you can’t give both Aston and Ruth Langsford the same mark for those performances.

Craig has his opinion and we have to respect that. This is based on opinions, and do you know what, if Craig thought strongly enough that Aston should have a 4, there’s nothing you can do. It’s not like a race where whoever crosses the line first wins. Unfortunately, dancing is based on people’s opinions.

The main problem is that people didn’t vote because they thought Aston was safe. They were all going, ‘It’s fine, because even if he’s second from the bottom on the leaderboard, he’s going to be fine anyway’. But actually the whole nation’s gone, ‘They’ll be fine’ and didn’t vote for him!

What happens the week before can really influence the following week. Ruth and Mollie have got to really pull out great dances because of what’s happened this week. I know it shouldn’t be based on that, but the public might not vote for Mollie on purpose because they’re so shocked about Aston going. She’s got to do a banger of a dance next week!

I thought Mollie’s performance was excellent, I have to be honest. She had perfect footwork, her frame was good, and the choreography was lovely. She was a joy to watch so I don’t really know why she was in the bottom two and why people aren’t voting for her.

I’m just hoping next Saturday she steps up again, and if she does, people might start noticing her and give her a vote. If she can pull out dances like that every week from now on, she should be OK.

Debbie McGee was brilliant and it was a proper, competition Tango. I think I need to have a backbend competition with her – and she’s 59!

Her dance looked like it could be performed in an international competition; for Strictly Come Dancing, it was very, very technically good. I did see little, tiny mistakes, so if I was being a harsh critic I would have given her a 9 rather than the four 10s the judges gave her. And Craig getting out from his chair and bowing down to Debbie…I don’t think we’ll ever see him do that again!

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 - TX 7 LIVE SHOW

I loved, loved, LOVED Joe McFadden’s Charleston. That routine was brilliant – and it was very hard as well. They had lots of elements but it was very in-sync. They worked very hard to get all those quick changes and co-ordination, but he pulled it off. I was very impressed.

Mind you, I was also really impressed with Davood Ghadami. This was his first dance where I’ve gone, ‘Yes, I like that!’ so I’m hoping he continues that run, because he came out and performed a beautiful American Smooth. The timing, the strength, the tone and the balance – it was amazing.

Davood could emerge as a dark horse but we’ve got to wait on next week’s dance to see if he’s going to continue this journey, or whether he’ll go back down again.

Ruth and Anton Du Beke’s dance was just brilliant entertainment. You could see from how he choreographed it, the comedy was done on purpose – and Anton gets that stuff right. He’s been very clever, has taken Ruth’s ability into account and gone, ‘What can I do to get through to the next week?’ It wasn’t cringe, and although there wasn’t much Paso Doble content, it was enjoyable to watch!

The fall at the end was just hilarious and will go down in history! And then she got on top of him and I was like, ‘Good on you, Ruth!’ She’s normally sat there on the This Morning couch and now she’s straddling Anton! She’s having the time of her life and she’s not shying away from it. She’s getting more and more confident and she’s just embracing the whole thing, which is amazing.

That said, next week I do think Ruth is in danger. She is obviously the worst dancer in it now and I think also after this week, she might be in danger because people will go crazy at the fact that Aston is out and she’s still in.

This week has been a huge, massive wake-up call for everybody. No-one’s safe. For the likes of Alexandra Burke and Debbie, this has got to mean something to them as well. You’ve got to pull it out of the bag every week. Get in that training room and flipping train!

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Strictly Come Dancing will return on Saturday 11th November on BBC1. Joanne Clifton currently stars in Flashdance – The Musical in theatres across the UK. Visit the website for full details of tour venues and dates.