STRICTLY Come Dancing professional Anton du Beke says his celebrity dancing partner Jacqui Smith could be this year's surprise winner.

The dancer said Ms Smith, 57, has “potentially the biggest journey” of any of the contestants on Strictly Come Dancing but he is still optimistic for an outright win.

He told ITV’s This Morning: “Politicians are notorious for working from the neck up, everything is high intellect and not a lot of movement required.

“I think the (time from the) launch show to the first show last week was the biggest change of anybody on the show, I thought.

“I thought she was absolutely brilliant – elegant, wonderful hat and cane work, and I think she’s made the biggest improvement of anyone, and we are doing another dance this week and she’s coming on fabulously so I’m absolutely delighted with her, and she’s doing really well so I think there could be a chance of an outright win this year, but then I would say that.”

Ms Smith, former Home Secretary and Redditch MP, grew up in Worcestershire and is a former pupil at Malvern Link Primary School and Dyson Perrins.