Ashley Banjo “really sad” that Jason Gardiner has quit Dancing On Ice

Diversity star defends controversial ex-judge, who's been replaced by John Barrowman

Ashley Banjo says he’s gutted Jason Gardiner won’t be back beside him on the Dancing On Ice 2020 judging panel.

Jason announced his depature from the skating contest in August after ten series as its most controversial star.

Former contestant and all-round entertainer John Barrowman will replace him on the next run in January.

Ashley, who joined the Ice Panel when ITV revived the show two years ago, told The Sun how the sudden change took him by surprise.

“I was really sad when I found out about Jason leaving,” he said. “It was a shock and it’s definitely going to be something to get used to.”

Reports suggested that Jason may have jumped before he was pushed, as bosses considered axing him to appease celeb contestants.

However, Ashley defended the Australian’s caustic judging style, arguing that he’s simply passionate about choreography.

“Sometimes people think Jason hams it up and puts things on when he’s on the panel, but Jason goes with his heart,” the Diversity frontman added.

“He’s all in. So he has his reasons – there’s things he wants to do.”

Once again, skating legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are joining Ashley and John at the judges’ desk.

They will be back sooner than expected, as ITV this week announced a festive special, Dancing On Ice at Christmas.

Similarly to Strictly Come Dancing’s launch episode, it will see hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield confirm the celeb and professional couples.

Former competitors including Ray Quinn and Jake Quickenden – and possibly Gemma Collins – will also take to the rink for one-off performances.

In the mean time, Ashley is fronting the second series of his dating format Flirty Dancing.

The show, featuring singles pairing up to learn dance routines, returns to Channel 4 on Friday 8th November at 8.00pm.