Esther Rantzen has accused the BBC of ageism after it axed Arlene Phillips from Strictly Come Dancing.

The TV presenter – who competed in the second series with dance partner Anton du Beke – gave her view on Arlene, 66, being replaced on the judging panel by 30-year-old Alesha Dixon.

Esther, 69, told the Daily Mirror: “It certainly does seem like ageism, it’s odd that a world-renowned choreographer who happens to be an older woman gets axed.”

She added: “I don’t think anybody is in doubt that ageism prevails in TV.

“The only good thing is that it has whipped up a storm of protest – it should give them pause for thought in the future.”

Meanwhile, Bad Girls star Claire King, 46, who danced on the show in series four with Brendan Cole, said: “If it’s an age issue, then why are Len and Bruce still there?

“If it’s about dance then Bruce is an old hoofer and Arlene knows her stuff, so why is Tess Daly there?

“If they wanted to bring Alesha in, why didn’t they have her on as well as Arlene?”

She added: “Women do suffer more from ageism than men, particularly in the entertainment industry. There are many examples of an older woman being replaced by a younger model. I am all too aware of the pressure as an actress.”

Fellow judge Bruno Tonioli said of Arlene’s departure: “Of course I’m sad that she’s gone – she’s a friend and it’s a real shame. But I can’t really talk more about this.”