Ann Widdecombe

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Ann Widdecombe : biography

4 October 1947 –

In January 2011 Widdecombe was joint President of the North of England Education Conference in Blackpool. She shared the responsibility with a young person from the town. She has also become a patron of The Grace Charity for M.E.

Widdecombe revealed, in an April 2012 interview with Matt Chorley of The Independent, that she was writing her autobiography, which she described as ".. rude about all and sundry, but an amount of truth is always necessary."

Early life

Born in Bath, Somerset, Widdecombe is the daughter of Rita Noreen (née Plummer; 1911-2007) and Ministry of Defence civil servant James Murray Widdecombe. Widdecombe’s maternal grandfather, James Henry Plummer, was born to an Irish Catholic family of English descent in Crosshaven, County Cork in 1874. She attended the Royal Naval School in Singapore,; BBC News, 7 October 2007 and La Sainte Union 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.

Councillor

From 1976 to 1978, Widdecombe was a councillor for Runnymede District in Surrey. She contested the seat of Burnley in Lancashire in the 1979 general election and then, against David Owen, the Plymouth Devonport seat in the 1983 general election.

Media work and appearances

In 2002, she took part in the ITV programme Celebrity Fit Club. Also in 2002 she took part in a Louis Theroux television documentary, depicting her life, both in and out of politics. In March 2004 she briefly became The Guardian newspaper’s agony aunt, introduced with an Emma Brockes interview. In 2005 BBC Two showed six episodes of The Widdecombe Project, an agony aunt television programme. 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. Also in 2005, she presented the 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. In 2005, she also appeared in a discussion programme on Five to discuss who had been England’s greatest monarch since the Norman Conquest; her choice of monarch was Charles II.

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 because of 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."Ann Widdecombe in the Daily Express, as quoted by She did, however, stand by her appraisal of regular panellists Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, whom she has called "the fastest wits in showbusiness".

In 2007, she awarded the University Challenge trophy to the winners. 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.

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 she travelled around London and Birmingham talking to girl gangs.

In October 2010, she appeared on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing, partnered by Anton du Beke, winning the support of some viewers despite low marks from the judges. After nine weeks of routines strongly flavoured by comedy the couple had received enough support in the public vote to stay in the contest. Widdecombe was eliminated from the competition on Sunday 5 December after the public vote had been combined with the judges’ score; she was with Scott Maslen of EastEnders in the bottom two.

Widdecombe is currently filming a new quiz show with herself as questionmaster, for the Sky Atlantic channel, called Cleverdicks. The show is being shown in 30 one-hour episodes in an initial series, starting 2012. It features four contestants, usually high quality members of the UK national quiz circuit and ends with a money round for the winner of each show.

On 23 April 2012 Widdecombe presented an hour-long documentary for BBC Radio 5 Live, Drunk Again: Ann Widdecombe Investigates, looking at how the British attitude to getting drunk has changed over the last few years.

It was revealed in Oct 2012, that this year’s Children in Need’s Appeal Night will feature a Strictly Come Dancing special with former show favourites Russell Grant and Ann.

On Sunday 4 November 2012, Ann appeared on BBC’s Songs of Praise programmme as a guest host on a special programme about singleness.