Ann Widdecombe

From Academic Kids

The Right Honourable Ann Noreen Widdecombe (born October 4 1947) is a British Conservative politician. She is MP for Maidstone & The Weald , Privy Counsellor and an outspoken supporter of traditional family values. Widdecombe was born in Bath, Somerset. She holds Honours degrees in Latin (BA University of Birmingham) and in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (MA Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford).

She contested the seat of Burnley in 1979, and then Plymouth Devonport in 1983 against David Owen. She was first elected to the Houses of Parliament in the 1987 UK general election as a candidate for the constituency of Maidstone (which became Maidstone & The Weald in 1997).

She became the Home Office Minister in Charge of Prisons in John Major's government and in that role she visited every single prison. After the fall of the Conservative government to Labour in 1997 she served as shadow Health Secretary and later shadow Home Secretary under William Hague, but has since retired to the backbenches.

When the voters of Eastbourne returned a Liberal Democrat candidate, in the by-election caused by the assassination of Ian Gow, she told them "the IRA would be toasting their success".

She is famous for her celibacy and her outspoken conservatism, and her viewpoints concerning abortion and recreational drugs, which some consider to be antiquated. She made headlines for her policy of applying the standards for handcuffing prisoners in transit to pregnant women, even on visits to hospitals. She claimed that this was necessary because of the risk of their absconding.

During the Conservative leadership election that picked William Hague she spoke against Michael Howard, whom she had served under when he was Home Secretary. She remarked "there is something of the night about him" and it is for this remark she is probably most (in)famous. It was considered to be extremely damaging, and Howard came last in that 1997 poll. However, he went on to become party leader in 2003 and some of Howard's more clever supporters at that time claimed she had meant "there is something of the knight about him".

She scored an own goal in calling for a zero tolerance policy of prosecution for users of cannabis in her speech at the 2000 Conservative conference, which was well-received by rank-and-file Conservative delegates. 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.

During the 2001 Conservative leadership election, after the resignation of William Hague in the wake of the 2001 UK general election, she could not find sufficient Conservative MPs to support her as a leadership candidate and she refused to serve in a Duncan Smith cabinet.

It is alleged that in preparation for that contest she began the process of softening her image and raising her political profile, but that process appears to be continuing today despite the subsequent selection of Iain Duncan Smith as the Conservative party leader. Her fellow Conservative MPs and political opponents have been cruel at times about her appearance, dubbing her "Doris Karloff" in reference to horror film actor Boris Karloff, but she has had the last laugh in her current reincarnation as a slimmed-down, well-dressed blonde.

As a strong, forceful and clever woman, Widdecombe is one of those unlikely English sex symbols and her admirers include Bob Geldof and Eddie Izzard. During the 2001 UK general election, I Love Ann Widdecombe underwear was the top-selling item at Politico's Bookstore, a London shop devoted to political merchandise.

Her non-political accomplishments include being a popular novelist. In March of 2004 she briefly became the Guardian newspaper's agony aunt, introduced with an Emma Brockes (http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1179972,00.html) interview. In 2002, she took part in the ITV programme Celebrity Fit Club. BBC Two has announced six episodes of The Widdecombe Project, an agony aunt television program, will be shown in their 2005 season. In 2005 she was once again appearing in Celebrity Fit Club but this time as a "panel member" dispensing wisdom and advice to the celebrities taking part.

Bibliography

  • An Act of Peace by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005) ISBN 0297829580
  • An Act of Treachery by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002) ISBN 0297645730
  • The Clematis Tree by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000) ISBN 0297645722
  • Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning by Nicholas Kochan (Politico's Publishing, 2000) ISBN 1902301552
  • Inspired and Outspoken: The Collected Speeches of Ann Widdecombe edited by John Simmons (Politico's Publishing, 1999) ISBN 1902301226

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