Jacqui Smith doesn't dance around as she reveals her battle with the menopause ...

Jacqui Smith will sweep down the Strictly staircase tonight in a big swishy skirt, to the strains of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

If she glides it's because Anton's been working on her posture. 

'Overall, he says it is quite good, but there's been a fair bit of him saying 'stand up straight' and, frankly, 'stick your tits out',' explains Jacqui, 57.

Anton! This woman was our first ever female Home Secretary. Is such word choice appropriate?

Jacqui Smith (pictured) will sweep down the Strictly staircase tonight in a big swishy skirt, to the strains of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Jacqui Smith (pictured) will sweep down the Strictly staircase tonight in a big swishy skirt, to the strains of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

'In the context of dance, entirely appropriate, yes,' she says, in much the same firm manner she must have used with the head of counter-terrorism, once.

Of course, Anton Du Beke has vast experience dealing with politicians and their, erm, posture. 

He famously had Ann Widdecombe in his arms a few years back, and hasn't been coy about making comparisons.

'I'm not showing off, but he has said to me: 'I don't feel the need to fire you out of a cannon or to throw you across the floor. 

'We don't need to do those things, yet,' says Jacqui. 'So that feels like praise, actually, that we can do proper dancing.'

Has there been sisterly advice from Ann? 'I did do a radio thing the other day and she was on before and she did say she thought Anton was the one who got all the duffers. 

'So thanks, Ann! But then she also said she thought I might get through a few weeks, so I thought that was sisterly support.'

Strictly veteran Ed 'Gangnam Style' Balls has told her she needs to make sure it comes across that she is taking the experience seriously. 

Meanwhile, her former boss Gordon Brown — he was Prime Minister to her Home Secretary — has also been adding his tuppenceworth, in a very Gordon Brown way.

'Yes, he said that he knew I would work hard,' she says, giving a little grimace.

Is that code for 'she will be rubbish, but a trier'?

'Yes, I think so. It is a very Gordon thing to say.'

So where to begin with the most senior former politician (Ed Balls only made Shadow Chancellor while Ann Widdecombe was Minister for Prisons) ever to place herself in the Strictly spotlight?

Anton's been working on her posture. 'There's been a fair bit of him saying 'stand up straight' and, frankly, 'stick your tits out',' explains Jacqui, 57 (pictured together)

Anton's been working on her posture. 'There's been a fair bit of him saying 'stand up straight' and, frankly, 'stick your tits out',' explains Jacqui, 57 (pictured together)

Actually our chat is quite the rollercoaster and surprisingly revealing. Conversation lurches from fake tan (she's never had a spray tan, but it is imminent, and, yes, she's terrified), to her divorce (she and her husband Richard announced their split in January), to the menopause (yes, she was going through it at the same time she was Home Secretary).

She's open and funny and — who knew? — there are hints of a personality there. She's even willing to talk about the end of her career. 

Whether or not you think she was a good Home Secretary, the sad reality is most don't remember what she did, only how it ended.

It strikes me that it won't matter a jot if she falls flat on her face in public on the Strictly dance floor, because she has already done that, for real.

She came a cropper in 2009 after two years in the job, amid the expenses scandal and, yes, there was unthinkably bad footwork involved.

Perhaps most seriously there was a row about whether she should have claimed her sister's house — where she stayed when in London for work — was her primary residence.

Lingering longer in public memory is the more lurid expenses-related scandal when it emerged that she had — erroneously, she always insisted — claimed two pay-per-view porn films on her expenses.

Her husband had watched them, but she was ultimately responsible for her own expenses submissions. Career over.

How does she feel about it now? 'I think, I mean, obviously, I wish it hadn't happened. I wish I'd acted differently, but I had a very fortunate and very successful political career for 13 years . . . '

She starts to talk about how, in these times, so many people are going through so much, 'so I would be the last person to say I've had a tough time'.

She says she knew it was curtains immediately — saying to her husband 'I will have to resign' — but she didn't immediately. Why not?

'The Prime Minister didn't want me to. 

'He was very supportive of me and I felt like I still had a job to do and I carried on doing it for as long as I could, up to the point when, actually, my family needed me more than the job needed me, and that's the point at which I resigned.'

It was a professional disaster, but a crisis point for her family too, presumably?

'Yes it was. I wanted to support them but also they weren't in a position to support me, and I'd never have been able to do that job without their support.'

Some would find it hard to stay in a marriage if their husband's porn viewing had led to the downfall of an entire career. 

How could she not have blamed him? She insists she didn't — admitting she didn't want her marriage to end. He was the one who eventually walked. 

'I mean, yes, we had some words, but ultimately we were both responsible for filling in the forms that we messed up.

'We shared the responsibility. We shared the good times, the bad times and we continue to share lots of things about our lives now, even though we are living separately.

'We have two lovely boys and we've shared a lot of previous adventures together and we are taking different paths, but we'll probably always love each other and want to support each other, and that's what we are doing. He is supporting me on Strictly.'

It's actually their anniversary today. 'We would have been married for 33 years.'

She admits one of her biggest challenges currently is assessing how much to reveal — personality or otherwise — to the next set of voters she faces.

'With the dress, I'm going to put myself in the hands of the experts. I know my skirt this week is quite long, but who knows how short I'll go. I'll leave it to them to make me look good.'

And how much to flaunt emotionally?

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