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The Right Honourable
 Ann Widdecombe
 MP


In office
13 January 1999 – 18 September 2001
Leader William Hague
Preceded by Norman Fowler
Succeeded by Oliver Letwin

In office
24 May 1998 – 13 January 1999
Leader William Hague
Preceded by John Maples
Succeeded by Liam Fox

In office
28 February 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Tony Baldry
Succeeded by Office Abolished

Member of Parliament
for Maidstone and The Weald
Maidstone (1987-1997)
Incumbent
Assumed office 
11 June 1987
Preceded by John Wells
Majority 14,856 (30.5%)

Born 4 October 1947 (1947-10-04) (age 62)
Bath, Somerset, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Alma mater University of Birmingham
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Religion Roman Catholic

Ann Noreen Widdecombe (born 4 October 1947) is a British Conservative Party politician and, since 2000, television presenter and novelist. She is the Member of Parliament for Maidstone and The Weald and a Privy Counsellor. She is a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and a supporter of traditional family values.

Contents

Early life

Born in Bath, Somerset, Widdecombe is the daughter of a Ministry of Defence civil servant. She attended the Royal Navy School, Singapore[1] and a convent school in Bath. She then read Latin at Birmingham University and later attended Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford to read philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). She worked for Unilever (1973–75) and then as an administrator at the University of London (1975–87) before entering parliament.[2]

Councillor

From 1976 to 1978, Widdecombe was a Runnymede District councillor.[3] She contested the seat of Burnley in the 1979 general election and then Plymouth Devonport in the 1983 general election against David Owen.[4][5]

Member of Parliament

She was first elected to the House of Commons in the 1987 general election as member for the constituency of Maidstone (which became Maidstone and The Weald in 1997).[6]

Political views

Widdecombe is a committed Christian who has made it clear that her views on some issues reflect this; for instance, she would refuse to be health secretary as long as this involved overseeing abortions. Along with John Gummer MP, she converted from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church following the decision of the Church of England that women could become priests.[7] She called for a zero tolerance policy of prosecution, albeit with only £100 fines as the punishment, for users of cannabis in her speech at the 2000 Conservative conference; which was well-received by rank-and-file Conservative delegates.[8] However, she alleges that someone connected with Francis Maude promptly contacted journalists to alert them that fellow Conservative cabinet members were prepared to come out and indicate "something of ambivalence" towards their own past experiences with this drug.[9]

In 2003, together with fellow Roman Catholic MP Edward Leigh, Widdecombe proposed an amendment opposing repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which banned the promotion of homosexuality by local governments. Out of the 17 Parliamentary votes considered by the Public Whip website to concern equal rights for homosexuals, Widdecombe has taken the opposing position in 15 cases, not being present at the other two votes.[10]

She is a committed animal lover and one of the few Conservative MPs to have consistently voted for the ban on fox hunting.[11]

She has expressed a variety of views on climate change, but she generally attacks calls for action to mitigate it and her views appear to have hardened over time. In 2007, she wrote that she did not want to belittle the issue but was sceptical of the claims that specific actions would prevent catastrophe,[12] then in 2008 that her doubts had been “crystalised” by the book An Appeal to Reason,[13] before giving a statement in 2009 that "There is no climate change, hasn’t anybody looked out of their window recently?".[14]

In government

Widdecombe joined John Major's government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security in 1990. In 1993 she became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment being promoted to Minister of State the following year. In 1995 she became Minister of State at the Home Office and Minister in Charge of Prisons and visited every single prison in Britain.[15]

Shadow Cabinet

After the fall of the Conservative government to Labour in 1997 she served as shadow Health Secretary between 1998 and 1999 and later shadow Home Secretary between 1999 and 2001 under William Hague.[16]

Leadership contest and backbenches

During the 2001 Conservative leadership election, she could not find sufficient Conservative MPs to support her as a leadership candidate. She first supported Michael Ancram, who was eliminated in the first round, and then Kenneth Clarke, who lost in the final round. She afterwards declined to serve in an Iain Duncan Smith shadow cabinet (although she indicated on camera during her time with Louis Theroux prior to the leadership contest that she wished to retire to the backbenches anyway).

In the 2005 leadership election, she initially supported Kenneth Clarke again. Once he was eliminated, she turned support towards Liam Fox. Following Fox's subsequent elimination, she took time to reflect before finally declaring for David Davis. She expressed reservations over the eventual winner David Cameron, feeling that he did not have a proven track record like the other candidates for leadership, and she has been a leading figure in parliamentary opposition to his A List policy which she has said is "an insult to women".[17] At the October 2006 Conservative Conference, she was Chief Dragon in a political version of Dragons' Den, in which A-list candidates were invited to put forward a policy proposal which was then torn apart by her team of Rachel Elnaugh, Oliver Letwin and Michael Brown.[18]

In an interview with Metro in September 2006 she stated that if the parliament was of a normal length it was likely she would go at the next General Election.[19] She confirmed her intention to stand down to The Observer's Pendennis diary in September 2007,[20] and again in October 2007 after Prime Minister Gordon Brown quashed speculation of an Autumn 2007 general election.[21]

Widdecombe is one of the 98 MPs who voted to keep their expense details secret.[22] When the expenses claims were leaked, Widdecombe was described by the The Daily Telegraph as one of the "saints" amongst all MPs.[23]

In May 2009 it was reported that Widdecombe was gathering support to be elected as an interim Speaker of the House of Commons until the next general election following Michael Martin's resignation.[24] On 11 June 2009, she confirmed her bid to be the Speaker.[25] Though she made it through to the second ballot, she came last in this and was eliminated and did not progress any further.[26]

Recognition

Widdecombe was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Canterbury Christ Church University at a ceremony held at Canterbury Cathedral on 30 January 2009.[27]

Personal life and family

Widdecombe currently lives in London. Until very recently, she had a constituency home in the village of Sutton Valence, Kent,[28] which she sold upon deciding to retire at the next general election.[29] She shared her home in London with her widowed mother, Rita Widdecombe, until Rita's death from natural causes, on 1 May 2007, aged 95.[30] She has a brother, Malcolm, who is a clergyman in Bristol.[31] In March 2008, Widdecombe purchased a house in Haytor, on Dartmoor in Devon where she plans on spending her retirement [32].

She has never married nor had any children. In November 2007 on BBC Radio 4 she described how a journalist once produced a profile on her with the assumption that she had had at least "one sexual relationship", to which Widdecombe replied: "Be careful, that's the way you get sued."[33]

Religious views

Widdecombe is a practising Roman Catholic, a faith to which she converted in 1993 after leaving the Church of England in protest at the ordination of female priests.[34]

Controversies

In 1990, following the assassination of the Conservative politician Ian Gow by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA); the Eastbourne by-election for his seat in the House of Commons was won by the Liberal Democrat David Bellotti. Upon the announcement, Widdecombe told the voters that the IRA would be "toasting their success".[35]

In 1996 Widdecombe as prisons minister defended the Government's policy to shackle pregnant women with handcuffs and chains when in hospital giving birth. The policy was later dropped after public outcry[36].

In 1997, during the Conservative leadership election that picked William Hague, Widdecombe spoke out against Michael Howard, under whom she had served when he was Home Secretary. She famously remarked "there is something of the night about him". It was considered to be extremely damaging, and Howard was frequently portrayed as a vampire in satire from that time on,[37] and came last in the poll. However, he went on to become party leader in 2003, and Ann Widdecombe said "I explained fully what my objections were in 1997 and I do not retract anything I said then. But this is 2005 and we have to look to the future and not the past."[38]

In 2001, when Michael Portillo was running for leader of the Conservative Party, Widdecombe described him and his allies as 'backbiters'. She went on to say that should he be appointed leader, she would never give him her allegiance.[21]

Work outside Parliament

Her non-political accomplishments include being a popular novelist. In 2002, she took part in the ITV programme Celebrity Fit Club. In March 2004 she briefly became the The Guardian newspaper's agony aunt, introduced with an Emma Brockes interview.[39] In 2005 BBC Two showed six episodes of The Widdecombe Project, an agony aunt television programme.[40] In 2005, she appeared in a new series of Celebrity Fit Club, but this time as a panel member dispensing wisdom and advice to the celebrities taking part.[40] Also in 2005, she presented a show Ann Widdecombe to the Rescue in which she acted as an agony aunt, dispensing no-nonsense advice to disputing families, couples, and others across the UK.[40]

She was the guest host of news quiz Have I Got News for You twice, in 2006 and 2007. Following her second appearance, Widdecombe vowed she would never appear on the show again due to comments made by panellist Jimmy Carr. She wrote, "His idea of wit is a barrage of filth and the sort of humour most men grow out of in their teens.... [T]here's no amount of money for which I would go through those two recording hours again. At one stage I nearly walked out."[41] She did, however, stand by her appraisal of regular panellists Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, whom she has called "the fastest wits in showbusiness".[41]

In 2006, she launched a boycott against British Airways for suspending a worker who refused to hide her cross which ended when British Airways reversed their suspension.[42] In November 2006, she moved into the house of an Islington Labour Councillor to experience life on a council estate, her response to her experience being "Five years ago I made a speech in the House of Commons about the forgotten decents. I have spent the last week on estates in the Islington area finding out that they are still forgotten".[43]

She awarded the 2007 University Challenge trophy.[44] In the same year, she was cast as herself in "The Sound of Drums", the 12th episode of the third series of the science-fiction drama Doctor Who supporting Mr Saxon, the alias of the Master.[45]

Since 2007, Widdecombe has fronted a television series called Ann Widdecombe Versus, on ITV1, in which she speaks to various people about things related to her as an MP, with an emphasis on confronting those responsible for problems she wished to tackle. On 15 August 2007 she talked about prostitution, the next week, about benefits and the week after that, about truancy. A fourth episode was screened on 18 September 2008 in which Ann travelled around London and Birmingham talking to girl gangs.[46] On 25 September 2008, she investigated the diet and weight-loss industry, celebrity magazines and cosmetic surgery. That episode also dealt with people's attitudes to body shape, along with people's experiences of being on diets, and having regained the fat they had lost after having achieved weight loss.[47]

Ann Widdecombe has made appearances on television and radio, and presented the Lent Talks on BBC Radio 4 on 12 March 2008. In 2005, she appeared in a discussion programme on Five to discuss who England's greatest monarch since the Norman Conquest had been - her choice of monarch was Charles II.[48]

She appeared in a television advert for the Rana Pasta Company.[20] The advertisement topped a list of Worst Celebrity Ads compiled by Campaign Magazine.[49]

She presented an episode of Channel 4's "Christianity - A History", first broadcast Sunday, 8 February 2009.[50]

Ann Widdecombe stood in for James O'Brien for two weeks from 10 August 2009 on LBC 97.3 at 10am.[51]

Bibliography

Fiction

  • The Clematis Tree by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000) ISBN 0-297-64572-2
  • An Act of Treachery by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002) ISBN 0-297-64573-0
  • Father Figure by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005) ISBN 0-297-82962-9
  • An Act of Peace by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005) ISBN 0-297-82958-0

Non-fiction

  • Inspired and Outspoken: The Collected Speeches of Ann Widdecombe edited by John Simmons (Politico's Publishing, 1999) ISBN 1-902301-22-6
  • Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning by Nicholas Kochan (Politico's Publishing, 2000) ISBN 1-902301-55-2

References

  1. ^ Ann Widdecombe set to stand down; BBC News, 7 October 2007
  2. ^ "About Ann". annwiddecombe.com. http://www.annwiddecombe.com/text.aspx?id=52. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  3. ^ "http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/nov/03/uk.conservatives". guardian.co.uk. London. 3 November 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/nov/03/uk.conservatives. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  4. ^ "UK General Election results May 1979". Political Science Resources. Richard Kimber. 3 May 1979. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. http://web.archive.org/web/20060925040210/http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/ge79/i04.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  5. ^ "UK General Election results June 1983". Political Science Resources. Richard Kimber. 9 June 1983. Archived from the original on 2008-03-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20080320065802/http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/ge83/i16.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  6. ^ Maidstone and The Weald, UKPollingReport
  7. ^ BBC News | UK Politics | Widdecombe rejects abortion role
  8. ^ Watt, Nicholas (200-10-06). "Widdecombe fights back firm". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2000/oct/06/drugsandalcohol.conservatives2000. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  9. ^ BBC News | UK POLITICS | Zero tolerance 'would not work'
  10. ^ "Ann Widdecombe compared to 'Homosexuality - Equal rights'", Public Whip. Retrieved on 2009-06-24.
  11. ^ "Ann Widdecombe compared to 'Fox hunting - Ban'", Public Whip. Retrieved on 2009-03-21.
  12. ^ Switching Lightbulbs won't change the world
  13. ^ Yes, I am a heretic on global warming
  14. ^ Article including refutation of any global warming
  15. ^ "Ann Widdecombe - political sketch". London: bbconline. 1998-06-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/104160.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  16. ^ "Ann Widdecombe: Electoral history and profile". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/person/5516/ann-widdecombe. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  17. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/text/article.html?in_article_id=401718&in_page_id=1770&in_main_section=&in_sub_section=&in_chn_id= Dailymail.co.uk
  18. ^ http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/iain_dale/2006/10/when_youve_got_nothing_to_writ.html Commentisfree.guardian.co.uk
  19. ^ Andrew Williams (11 September 2006). "60 SECONDS: Ann Widdecombe". Metro. http://www.metro.co.uk/fame/interviews/article.html?in_article_id=19578&in_page_id=11. Retrieved 2007-09-06. 
  20. ^ a b Oliver Marre (2 September 2007). "Widdy knows the way to a man's heart". The Observer (London). http://observer.guardian.co.uk/7days/story/0,,2160786,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  21. ^ a b http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7032992.stm
  22. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1816072.ece
  23. ^ "MPs' expenses: The saints (Part i)". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5342811/MPs-expenses-The-saints-Part-i.html?image=5. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  24. ^ "Speaker: Runners and riders". BBC (London). 21 May 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8057450.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  25. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8094377.stm
  26. ^ "Two left in Commons Speaker race". London: BBC online. 2009-06-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8111887.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  27. ^ "Widdecombe, Holland and Underwood are appointed honorary fellows". Canterbury Christ Church University. 3 February 2009. http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/News/newsRelease.asp?newsPk=1301. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  28. ^ http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/w/ann-widdecombe/
  29. ^ Wharton, Craig (2009-10-02). "An interview with Ann Widdecombe". The Politics Show. London: BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/regions/south_east/8288134.stm. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  30. ^ Conservative MP's mother dies, aged 95. Retrieved from http://www.kentnews.co.uk/kent-news/Conservative-MP_s-mother-dies,-aged-95-newsinkent3663.aspx.
  31. ^ http://www.pipnjay.org.uk/
  32. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/content/articles/2008/08/06/ann_widdecombe_feature.shtml
  33. ^ BBC - Radio 4 Woman's Hour -Ann Widdecombe
  34. ^ "Tony Blair joins catholic church". London: bbconline. 2007-12-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7157409.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  35. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/mar/20/profiles.parliament16
  36. ^ 'The Independent', 20 May 1997
  37. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,7371,1319967,00.html Guardian.co.uk
  38. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/webchats/webchat.html?in_page_id=1868&in_article_id=343672 Dailymail.co.uk
  39. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1179972,00.html Guardian.co.uk
  40. ^ a b c "Ann Widdecombe MP: An unlikely agony aunt". The Independent. 2005-06-28. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/ann-widdecombe-mp--an-unlikely-agony-aunt-754932.html. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  41. ^ a b Ann Widdecombe in the Daily Express, as quoted by "Widdecombe disgusted by Carr's 'filth'". mediamonkey (London: Guardian Unlimited). 28 November 2007. http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/mediamonkey/2007/11/widdecombe_disgusted_by_carrs.html. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  42. ^ "Widdecombe pledges to boycott BA". Metro. 2006-10-15. http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=21286&in_page_id=34. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  43. ^ "Anne gets taste of council estate life". Islington Gazette. 22 November 2006. http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/content/islington/gazette/news/story.aspx?brand=ISLGOnline&category=news&tBrand=northlondon24&tCategory=newsislg&itemid=WeED22%20Nov%202006%2013%3A00%3A30%3A717. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  44. ^ "University Challenge". UK Game Shows.com. http://www.ukgameshows.com/ukgs/University_Challenge. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  45. ^ Peter Ware. "Doctor Who - Fact File - "The Sound of Drums"". Doctor Who: The official site. bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/episodes/2007/facts/fact_312.shtml. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  46. ^ http://www.teletext.co.uk/tvplus/news/d3d037931e47dee762d226faa28f66df/Widdecombe+tackles+girl+gangs.aspx
  47. ^ "Ann Widdecombe versus the diet industry". ITV.com. http://www.itv.com/Lifestyle/AnnWiddecombe/default.html. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  48. ^ Bond, Jenni (2004-07-12). "Diary - Jenni Bond". New Statesman. http://www.newstatesman.com/200407120003. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  49. ^ The top ten best and worst celeb ads revealed- Advertising-Services-News By Industry-News-The Economic Times
  50. ^ "Christianity: A History - Exclusive - In Conversation with... Ann Widdecombe". Channel 4. 2009-02-08. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/christianity-a-history/articles/in-conversation-with-ann-widdecombe. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  51. ^ http://www.lbc.co.uk/ann-widdecombe-11033

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Wells
Member of Parliament for Maidstone
19871997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Maidstone & The Weald
1997 – present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
John Maples
Shadow Secretary of State for Health
1998 – 1999
Succeeded by
Liam Fox
Preceded by
Sir Norman Fowler
Shadow Home Secretary
1999 – 2001
Succeeded by
Oliver Letwin

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|200px|Ann Widdecombe]]

Ann Noreen Widdecombe (born 4 October 1947 in Bath, Somerset, England) is a former British politician. She was the Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Maidstone and The Weald from 1987 to 2010.

She was first elected to the House of Commons at the 1987 General Election. From 1995 to 1997, she was the Minister of State for Prisons. Ann Widdecombe served in William Hague's shadow cabinet from 1997 to 2001 and retired as an MP at the 2010 General Election.

Throughout her political career, Ann Widdecombe was quite socially conservative and converted from the Church of England to Roman Catholocism in 1992 after the Church of England voted to allow female priests.








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