Ann Widdecombe

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Ann Widdecombe : biography

4 October 1947 –

During the 2001 Conservative leadership election, she could not find sufficient support amongst Conservative MPs for her leadership candidacy. 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 Iain Duncan Smith’s Shadow Cabinet (although she indicated on the television programme When Louis Met…, 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, like the other candidates, have a proven track record, and she was later a leading figure in parliamentary opposition to his A-List policy, which she has said is "an insult to women". At the October 2006 Conservative Conference, she was Chief Dragon in a political version of the television programme 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.

In an interview with Metro in September 2006 she stated that if Parliament were of a normal length, it was likely she would retire at the next general election. She confirmed her intention to stand down to The Observer’s Pendennis diary in September 2007, and again in October 2007 after Prime Minister Gordon Brown quashed speculation of an autumn 2007 general election.

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

In May 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons, it was reported that Widdecombe was gathering support for election as interim Speaker until the next general election. On 11 June 2009, she confirmed her bid to be the Speaker. She made it through to the second ballot but came last and was eliminated.

Widdecombe retired from politics at the 2010 general election. It was rumoured that she would be a Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012, but she refused. She has since spoken about her opposition to the Coalition Government and her surprise at not being given a peerage by David Cameron.

Recognition

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

Honours

  • 40px 2013: Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great (DSG)

Personal life and family

Until her retirement at the 2010 general election, Widdecombe divided her time between her two homes – one in London and one in the village of Sutton Valence, Kent, in her constituency. She sold both of these properties, however, upon deciding to retire at the next general election. She shared her home in London with her widowed mother, Rita Widdecombe, until Rita’s death, on 25 April 2007, aged 95.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. In March 2008, she purchased a house in Haytor, on Dartmoor in Devon, to where she has now retired. Her brother, Malcolm (1937–2010), who was an Anglican Canon in Bristol, retired in May 2009 and died of metastatic oesophageal cancer on 12 October 2010. Her nephew, Rev Roger Widdecombe, is an Anglican priest.

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". When interviewer Jenni Murray asked if she had ever had a sexual relationship, Widdecombe laughed "it’s nobody else’s business". Widdecombe has a fondness for cats and has a section of her website devoted to all the pet cats with which she has shared her life.http://www.annwiddecombe.com/text.aspx?id=57