Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has hit out at fans of the show for giving new panellist Alesha Dixon a hard time.

The outspoken judge told The Sun that he thought fans who protested when Arlene Phillips was replaced on the show by former winner Alesha Dixon were hypocritical.

This time last year people were calling for Arlene to be sacked on the spot for being rude about John Sergeant,” he said.

“She was the Wicked Witch of the West, now all of a sudden she is Mother Teresa. What’s going on here?”

He added that Arlene had taken the decision well and that it was all part of the business.

Things happen. I got rid of people when I was a choreographer and so did Arlene. It’s not personal – it’s showbusiness. Come on guys, calm down.”

And he said that despite being upset by Arlene’s dismissal, he thought that Dixon was doing “a great, great job”.

he was found guilty before she was given a chance. The whole thing was ridiculous. It’s like firing before you get the target.

“It’s like when you change the cast of a play you have to give the new guys a chance. Of course it’s not the same, it’s different, but why does that mean it has to be worse?”

Tonioli tipped Ali Bastian, Ricky Whittle and Jade Johnson to do well in the series, bt added he did not want Coronation Street“>Coronation Street/a> star Craig Kelly to win – despite him appearing popular with the public.

It wouldn’t be right if Craig Kelly won the show,” he said.

“There’s nothing I could do about it as it’s up to the public, but let me tell you my comments would reflect his ability so he might not like it.”

Kelly is the favourite to be eliminated from this Saturday’s show, which is taking place in Blackpool.