Strictly Come Dancing and racial prejudice | Letters

Tim Bale thinks more research is needed before deciding whether ethnicity affects a contestant’s chance of winning, Sue Boulding says some took against Alexandra Burke because they thought she had an unfair head start, while Alex More points to the expected success of Anthony Joshua in another public vote

I’m a huge Strictly fan and, although I was happy to see Joe McFadden win this year, I would have been equally happy to see the breathtakingly brilliant Alexandra Burke get her hands on the coveted glitterball trophy. I therefore read with interest your article (Strictly’s Burke the latest black contestant to fall foul of harsh reality TV, 16 December), which suggested your research had indicated that BAME (and particularly female BAME) contestants were far more likely to leave the show early.

This may well have been the case so far, but strictly speaking (if you’ll forgive the pun) the statistics don’t really allow us to say with any certainty yet that it was all down to their ethnicity or their sex. We’d have to have more contests – and therefore more contestants – to get truly convincing proof of that. We’d also have to control for all the other factors that might make a difference to a contestant’s success: for instance, athleticism, fame and, like this year’s winner, being a popular cast member in a long-running soap opera.
Tim Bale
Professor of politics, Queen Mary University of London

• It’s claimed that racial prejudice played a part in the public’s dislike of Strictly Come Dancing contestant Alexandra Burke. Prejudice may indeed play a part, but there is also a feeling that she had an unfair head start over other contestants, having been coached by one of the judges, Craig Revel Horwood, for her part in the stage show Sister Act. She is disliked by many for posing naked for an anti-fur campaign, then being seen wearing a fur coat. It shouldn’t be automatically assumed that racial prejudice is to blame – after all, the black contestant Ore Oduba won Strictly last year.
Sue Boulding
Stanwardine, Shropshire

• The British public won’t vote for a black TV show contestant, suggests your article on Strictly Come Dancing. But wait – what’s this underneath on the same page? The British public will vote for a black TV show contestant (Boxer Anthony Joshua favourite to win Sports Personality of the Year, 16 December). Constructive ambiguity?
Alex More
London

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