Judge Rinder's case for the defence

The jiving judge talks to the JC about justice, criticism, and those rumours of a 'fix.'


If claims in the press that BBC 1's Strictly Come Dancing is fixed, were true, television judge and recently eliminated contestant from the Saturday-night dance show, Robert Rinder, claims he would perform an act even more dramatic than the facial contortions he managed as he glided merrily, across the Strictly floor.

Rinder rebuffs any suggestions of cheating: “I don’t think it is fixed at all. I’m sure it is not. In fact, I’d eat my wig with ketchup if it was. I know from my own show that television is so heavily regulated.”

He claims it is impossible to predict which of his former rivals will be crowned the winner of tomorrow night’s final.

“I genuinely think it is hard to say this year, especially as the people in the final are so brilliant it could go either way,” says the star of Judge Rinder, who also insists that, despite the media’s appetite for behind-the-scenes broiges, the contestants of the show really do all get along.

So much so that he side-steps a second attempt to get him to pick his favourite: “The reality is that we became so close and made true friendships, so you really don’t want to back anyone to win because you want everyone to do well.”

The ITV barrister left after coming up against the BBC sports presenter Ore Oduba in the dance-off. And, despite being the 11th out of 15 celebrity contestants to leave the show, the nerves that accompanied each live performance never subsided.

“I was terrified every time and it never got any better, but I loved the learning,” he reveals.

Unlike many of the other contestants, the criminal barrister did the show alongside his day job, which he found quite challenging. “I wouldn’t want to position myself against other contestants, but I was finishing work for Judge Rinder at 8 o’clock at night and would start dancing and go into the early hours,” he says.

“Sometimes I would be dancing until 1am, after looking over 10 cases. It was difficult and of course very challenging for Oksana, who had to teach me.”

He is referring to his coach, Oksana Platero, of whom he says: “She was fantastic; you spend more time with this person than you do with anyone else, even your spouse.

“You share your personal and physical space with them and you have to appreciate that.

“You can become emotionally depleted and there were certainly low points throughout the filming but I can’t think of one single one.”

Rinder, brought up in Southgate, says Strictly did not have the sense of competition that other celebrity reality shows have. “We all came from different walks of life so there wasn’t the veneer of a competitive edge, it was completely lovely.

“There wasn’t a moment where someone went out and you thought ‘oh great’. I know people don’t believe it, but that is how it was.”

And the judge, famous for his own biting put-downs on television, did not mind being on the receiving end of the judges’ criticisms, “even Craig [Revel Horwood] was reasonable,” he says.

“I responded if I thought Craig said something out of line when it wasn’t related to dance, but when I said goodbye I really meant what I said. It is difficult for them [the judges] because they have to come up with something really authentic to say every week.”

Referring to Revel Horwood’s always forthright criticisms, Rinder adds: “The thing about Craig is, it would soon wear thin if people thought he wasn’t telling the truth. And, come on, it is a TV show. He really cares about dance in the exact way I care about law.”

The 38-year-old says a friendship with fellow contestant, Olympic long-jumper, Greg Rutherford has “come as a complete surprise”.

At the Norwood annual dinner last month, he told guests he had been teaching his co-star Yiddish.

“I love it. I will use it whenever I can. Sadly, I can’t use it in court. I have had so many moments where I’ve wanted to say to a litigant, ‘what is this meshuggenah doing?’

“Or in front of a youth court I’ve wanted to say: ‘Look, he’s not a bad boy, he’s just a lobbes’.”

Brought up in a modern Orthodox family, he says performing the fox-trot in front of his grandparents was a highlight during the show and it has given his family much naches.

Grandparents Harry and Frances, who were originally from London’s Jewish East End, truly kvelled as they got the chance to watch him do their favourite dance.

Jewish values and experience are very important to Rinder. It was learning about the experiences of his Polish-born grandfather, Moishe Malenicky, who survived the Nazi death camps, that inspired his sense of justice.

“It has informed everything I do,” he says, “my approach to justice and one’s view of the world is irrevocably transformed when you come from that background.”

His grandfather was one of the 732 young survivors, “The Boys”, as they were dubbed, to whom Britain offered a home in 1945.

Rinder says: “He taught me all sorts of things but it is not so much what he said, but the general narrative that gives you a sense of pride and justice.

“He used to take us to Speakers’ Corner and even when people were spouting the most wicked bile, he retained a visceral sense of passion and love for democracy and love for this country and for the rule of law.”

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