Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe bigraphy, stories - British Conservative Party MP and former government Minister (1995–1997)

Ann Widdecombe : biography

4 October 1947 –

Ann Noreen Widdecombe DSG (born 4 October 1947) is a former British Conservative Party politician and has been a novelist since 2000. She is a Privy Councillor and was the Member of Parliament for Maidstone from 1987 to 1997 and for Maidstone and The Weald from 1997 to 2010. She was a social conservative and a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship. She retired from politics at the 2010 general election. Since 2002 she has also made numerous television and radio appearances, including as a television presenter. She is a convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.

As an MP, Widdecombe was known for opposing the legality of abortion and supporting the re-introduction of the death penalty.

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)., UKPollingReport

Political views

As an MP, Widdecombe expressed conservative views, including opposition to abortion; it was understood during her time in frontline politics that she would not become Health Secretary as long as this involved responsibility for abortions. Although a committed Christian, she has characterised the issue as one of life and death on which her view had been the same when she was agnostic. 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 on the Ordination of women as priests. In her speech at the 2000 Conservative conference, she called for a zero tolerance policy of prosecution, albeit with only £100 fines as the punishment, for users of cannabis. This was well received by rank-and-file Conservative delegates.

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 took the opposing position in 15 cases, not being present at the other two votes., Public Whip. Retrieved on 24 June 2009.

She is a committed animal lover and one of the few Conservative MPs to have consistently voted for the ban on fox hunting., Public Whip. Retrieved on 21 March 2009.

She has expressed a variety of views on climate change but has been opposed to legislation reducing emissions. Her views on the subject 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, then in 2008 that her doubts had been “crystalised” by Nigel Lawson’s book An Appeal to Reason, before stating in 2009 that "There is no climate change, hasn’t anybody looked out of their window recently?"

Over the years, Widdecombe has expressed her support for a reintroduction of the death penalty, which was abolished in the UK in 1965. She notably spoke of her support for its reintroduction for the worst cases of murder in the aftermath of the murder of two 10-year-old girls from Soham, Cambridgeshire, in August 2002. She supported the argument that the death penalty would have deterrent value, as within five years of its abolition the national murder rate had more than doubled.

In government

Widdecombe joined John Major’s government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security in 1990. In 1993, she was moved to the Department of Employment, and she was promoted to Minister of State the following year. In 1995, she joined the Home Office as Minister of State for Prisons and visited every prison in Britain.

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 as Shadow Home Secretary between 1999 and 2001 under William Hague.

Leadership contest and backbenches