No jab dancers ‘out on a limb’: BBC refuses to pay legal bills to protect identities as judge Craig Revel Horwood says their action drives him ‘nuts’
BBC bosses are refusing to use licence-fee payers’ money to keep the identity of the Strictly Covid jab refuseniks secret.
The professionals have prompted fury among their co-stars by not having the vaccine and two have now instructed top solicitors to stop their names being made public, citing privacy laws.
BBC chiefs last night confirmed that neither the BBC nor BBC Studios, the commercial arm that makes the hit programme, will fund the legal bills. This leaves the pair to settle their own costs, which could run into thousands of pounds.
A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It appears that these dancers are out on a limb after all. As employees of the BBC, you might expect some help when it comes to matters like this but this isn’t the case.’
THE SHOW GOES ON: BBC bosses are refusing to fund legal bills to keep the identity of the Strictly Covid jab refuseniks secret. Pictured: Sara Davies and Aljaz Skorjanec
The jab row has threatened to overshadow the start of the 19th series, which began in earnest last night as the 15 celebrities and their professional partners took to the dancefloor for the first time.
Three out of the 18 professional dancers remain unvaccinated and in the run-up to the opening of the competition there was also a confirmed Covid case among the participants.
Now it has emerged that two of the dancers have instructed the Central London law firm Payne Hicks Beach to represent them, with fees costing in excess of £500 per hour.
The BBC insists it stands by the cast, saying that vaccination status is a personal choice and it is not its place to demand it be mandatory. However, some sources suggest there is ‘light pressure’ being applied by bosses to have a Covid jab.
There is also confusion as staff and stars have been told that they must abide by the two-metre rule, even though it is no longer a Government requirement. It is understood a pact has been made by celebrities and professionals not to comment publicly on the issue.
On Friday, Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies and her partner Aljaz Skorjanec refused to divulge their own vaccination status.
Two professionals have now instructed top solicitors to stop their names being made public, citing privacy laws. Pictured: Greg Wise and Karen Hauer, left, and Adam Peaty and Katya Jones, right
When asked, Aljaz batted away the question while Ms Davies said: ‘From our point of view, we just don’t really want to talk about it.’
However, the judges appear happy to discuss the issue with Craig Revel Horwood, saying it drives him ‘nuts’ that people refuse a potentially life-saving vaccination.
Claiming not to be aware of the furore surrounding the show, he told The Times: ‘If I came into a situation, certainly when I am doing panto, for instance, I am hoping everyone has had a vaccination that I’m performing with on stage because that will make me feel safer.’
Last night defending Strictly champion Oti Mabuse took to the floor with sports pundit Ugo Monye, who had attended his father’s funeral earlier in the day. Their performance of a samba to Iko Iko (My Bestie) by Justin Wellington featuring Small Jam was dedicated to him, receiving 18 out of a possible 40.
Bake-Off star John Whaite and Johannes Radebe received a standing ovation from the studio audience for their tango to Blue Monday by New Order.
However, the judges appear happy to discuss the issue with Craig Revel Horwood (pictured), saying it drives him ‘nuts’ that people refuse a potentially life-saving vaccination
As the first all-male pairing on the show, they switched leads mid-routine and received 30 with head judge Shirley Ballas describing it as ‘exquisite.’ Olympian Adam Peaty and his partner Katya Jones also scored 30 for their Cha, Cha Cha to Beggin’ by Maneskin.
EastEnders actress Rose Ayling- Ellis also made history as the first deaf contestant to participate, scoring 22 with partner Giovanni Pernice for their jive to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.
TV presenter AJ Odudu and her partner Kai Widdrington scored 34 for their jive to Gold Dust by DJ Fresh, with judge Motsi Mabuse calling it the ‘best dance of the evening.’
Greg Wise and partner Karen Hauer also made a strong start, scoring 24 for their American Smooth to That’s Life by Frank Sinatra. The actor was cheered on by his wife, Dame Emma Thompson.
Devout Dan: Bible says I should never practise on Sabbath
By Katie Hind, showbusiness editor
While most Strictly stars train every day, hoping to increase their chances of waltzing off with the glitterball trophy, Christian Dan Walker won’t be dancing on Sundays.
The BBC Breakfast presenter has told his partner Nadiya Bychkova he will be taking the Lord’s Day off for religious reasons.
SUNDAY REST: Christian Dan Walker has told his partner Nadiya Bychkova (pictured together) he will be taking the Lord’s Day off for religious reasons
It means risking the frustration of the ballroom and Latin champion since it will reduce the hours they have to practise – something that could become increasingly important if they progress closer to the final.
A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Dan’s religion is very important to him and he won’t be dancing on Sundays. It is a sacrifice he makes for his faith.
‘While Nadiya will have to understand, the professional dancers become more competitive than the celebrities as the series draws to a close, the rivalry amongst them is huge.’
Dan, 42, who follows the Evangelical Christian tradition, made it clear when he began working as a television presenter that he wouldn’t work on Sundays.
The move has meant fewer employment opportunities because many football matches are on that day.
In an interview in 2016, the former Football Focus host was asked if he would work Sundays even if it was an extremely tempting job.
The church minister’s son said: ‘I’d say, “I really appreciate that. It’s a lovely offer and I’m sure it would be a magnificent programme but someone else can do it,” because for me Sundays are even more important than the best job in the world.’
Last night Dan and Nadiya scored 24 for their quickstep to Everybody Needs Somebody To Love by The Blues Brothers.
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