Ann Widdecombe has revealed that she jumped at the chance to do Strictly Come Dancing – despite her friends warning her that it was a bad idea.

The former Conservative MP- who unexpectedly reached the quarter finals of the 2010 series with partner Anton du Beke, despite continual bad reviews from the judges – said her success and popularity came as a huge surprise.

“Nobody who was my friend wanted me to do it,” Ann said. “They thought: loss of dignity, loss of fan base. They thought it would give the wrong impression and diminish me in the eyes of the public.

“I said, ‘Hang on, I’m not an MP any more, it’s no good expcting me to behave as an MP’. I thought Strictly would be fun. It was also the best-paid show in town.

She revealed: “My first sensation when doing Strictly was the absolute loss of responsibility.

“Until that moment, everything I had done in my whole adult life could have affected other people. But Strictly? Other than Anton’s shins, what could I affect? Absolutely nothing. It was a huge release.”

Ann added that she had expected to be voted out early on in the show – and couldn’t believe how long she went on for.

“I wasn’t expecting it to last for more than three weeks,” the former MP said.

“If you’d have said to me, you’re still going to be there in week 10, then you’re going on the live tour, then you’re going into pantomime, then you’ll be on at the Royal Opera House (in a cameo, non-singing role), all as a result of Strictly, I’d have said, ‘Have an aspirin’.