Ann Widdecombe

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Ann Widdecombe : biography

4 October 1947 –

In a recent interview, Widdecombe talked about her appreciation of music despite describing herself as "pretty well tone-deaf".

Religious views

Widdecombe is a practising Roman Catholic. She converted in 1993 after leaving the Church of England. Her reasons for leaving the latter were many, as she explained to reporters from the New Statesman:

I left the Church of England because there was a huge bundle of straw. The ordination of women was the last straw, but it was only one of many. For years I had been disillusioned by the Church of England’s compromising on everything. The Catholic Church doesn’t care if something is unpopular.

In 2010, Widdecombe turned down an offer to be Britain’s next ambassador to the Holy See, being prevented from accepting by suffering a detached retina. She was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Benedict XVI for services to politics and public life on 31 January 2013.

Stage acting career

Following her retirement, Widdecombe made her stage debut, on 9 December 2011, at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford in the Christmas pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, alongside Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-12626500 "Ann Widdecombe to star in panto in Dartford" at bbc.co.uk In April 2012, she had a ten minute non-singing cameo part in Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera La Fille Du Regiment, playing Duchesse de Crackentorp. She will reprise her pantomime performance, again with Revel Horwood, at The Swan Theatre, High Wycombe in December 2012.https://wycombeswan.co.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=C3E6222D-6C32-4FA6-816D-BC022B374015

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".

In 1996, Widdecombe, as prisons minister, defended the Government’s policy to shackle pregnant prisoners with handcuffs and chains when in hospital. Widdecombe told the Commons the restrictions were needed to prevent prisoners from escaping. "Some MPs may like to think that a pregnant woman would not or could not escape. Unfortunately this is not true. The fact is that hospitals are not secure places in which to keep prisoners, and since 1990, 20 women have escaped from hospitals"

In 1997, during the Conservative leadership election of 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". The remark was considered to be extremely damaging to Howard, who was frequently satirised as a vampire thereafter. He came last in the poll. Howard went on to become party leader in 2003, however, and Widdecombe then stated, "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."

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.

Other interests

Her non-political accomplishments include being a popular novelist. Widdecombe also currently writes a weekly column for the Daily Express.

In October 2006, she pledged to boycott British Airways for suspending a worker who refused to hide her cross. The matter was resolved when the company reversed the suspension. 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".