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Ann Widdecombe

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M.C. Widdy, about to drop the most fire public school prayer of 2005.
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God Save the Queen?
Boo-yah-cash-er!
—Our Old Wids at Have I Got News for You[1]

Ann Noreen Widdecombe (born 4 October 1947) is a former British Conservative politician and has been a novelist since 2000. She is a social conservative and a former 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, her opposition to various issues of LGBT equality such as an equal age of consent and the repeal of Section 28, her support for the re-introduction of the death penalty, the retention of blasphemy laws and her opposition to fox hunting.

Personal life[edit]

After Pugwash and Carruthers came Pugwash II and Arbuthnot.
—Ann Widdecombe on the names of her cats.[2]

A Catholic convert from an Anglican family, Miss Widdecombe is fiercely anti-abortion and, famously, a virgin (or, in typical conservative conciseness, "a publicly-acknowledged practitioner of abstinence") with a large number of cats in her residence,Wikipedia's W.svg with ridiculous names. She has threatened to sue anyone (that includes you) who dareth to say she is not a virgin maiden.[3]

Views[edit]

Religion[edit]

Remarkably for a British politician, Widdecombe is a vocal Christian whose faith has often been a feature of her political life. She insisted that should the Conservative Party be elected to government again she would be unable to serve as Health Secretary since the National Health Service performs abortions. She has been a strong campaigner for family values and is a publicly-acknowledged practitioner of abstinence.
Conservapedia on Ann Widdecombe[4]
I suppose I'm slightly disappointed that Ann Widdecombe in particular should say, "Oh, I knew they'd bring up condoms, and child rape, and homosexuality." It's a bit like a burglar in court saying, "You would bring up that burglary, and that manslaughter, you never mentioned the fact I gave my father a birthday present!" You know? It's… Yes, Yes! Are you getting the message? There's a reason we hammer home these issues – because they matter. There's such an opportunity, owning a billion souls at Baptism. It's such an opportunity to do something remarkable, and to make this planet better, and it's an opportunity that is constantly, and arrogantly, being avoided – and I'm sorry for that.
Stephen Fry, debating the notion "Is the Catholic Church a force for good?" with Ann Widdecombe and others.[5]

Widdecombe is a practising Catholic. She converted in 1993 after leaving the Church of England.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

In 2009, Widdecombe appeared with Archbishop John OnaiyekanWikipedia's W.svg in an Intelligence Squared debate in which they defended the motion that the Catholic Church was a force for good. Arguing against the motion were Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens; the crowd agreed with the latter two.[10][1]

Christian persecution[edit]

See also: Persecution complex
It seems that everywhere we look today, across the world, Christians are being asked to take up their Cross. And we should not imagine, for one moment, that persecution of Christians is limited solely to those countries where there are fundamentalist Islamic regimes, and only a very tiny proportion of the population is Christian. ... We are not immune here in Britain, today. Time after time we open our newspapers, and we read of people who are being persecuted, or prosecuted, or threatened with loss of their jobs, because they are adhering openly to their Christian faith.
—Ms Widdie on Christian persecution.[11]

Family values and morality[edit]

Moralism thus takes over from political critique. Indeed, Widdecombe has built a successful second career for herself as one of the country's moralists-in-chief, descending like an avenging Fury on some den of vice or hapless council estate and dispensing brisk, Girl-Guide-like advice to the cowed occupants before sweeping off on yet another lucrative media mission. She is both a believer in self-sacrifice and a relentless self-publicist. Since the English love a character even more than they love a lord, her Dickensian idiosyncrasies as a Doughty Little Battler provide a useful cover for some of her more unpleasant social attitudes, such as dreaming of closing down every abortion clinic in the country.
—Terry Eagleton on Ann Widdecombe[12]

Widdecombe has been described by Conservapedia as "a strong campaigner for family values",[4] by Terry Eagleton as "one of the country's moralists-in-chief",[12] and by The Guardian staff as "a matronly and proudly traditionalist figure on the Conservative benches".[13] Her moralism on society has been seen by some (such as Eagleton) as hypocritical, given the views she takes, as she allegedly blames the public for issues caused by a systematic failure of the policies she promotes.[12]

Ban this filth![edit]

We need another Mary Whitehouse who is young and fashionable.
—Ann Widdecombe on Whitehouse, not known for her youth or fashion sense.

She was the guest host of news quiz Have I Got News for You twice, in 2006 and 2007.[14] Following her second appearance, Widdecombe vowed she would never appear on the show again[15] 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."[16] Sadly, she did not follow through with her latter claim. And – although she had very kind words for him – Paul MertonWikipedia's W.svg viewed her and Neil Kinnock as the show's worst hosts.[17][18]

At one time, Widdecombe branded all of television "filth"[19] (which is somewhat ironic, given that TV is the only reason most people know Widdecombe), so it's not surprising she has expressed support for a new Mary Whitehouse, although she has said she would not do it "for all the tea in China",[20] which is a hell heck of a lot of tea!

Homosexuality[edit]

I was very angry ... by the attitude of the party high command. David Cameron just bulldozed the whole thing through.
—Ann Widdecombe on sex with the Prime Minister quote mining David Cameron's support for same-sex marriage.[21]

Old Widdybobs has been consistently in firm opposition against any form of LGBT equality. In 2000, with regards to the repealing of Section 28 and the introduction of an equal age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, she said: "I do not believe that issues of equality should override the imperatives of protecting the young",[13] presumably because with the repeal of Section 28, predatory queers will take your kids and make them gay? I mean, how else would the Bill have been about "protecting the young"?

Abortion[edit]

Widdecombe is opposed to abortion, stating that it was "not just a religious belief" which "has nothing to do with sexual morality, or religion, or anything else", she views abortion as murder and says that and that "some of my best work against abortion was done when I was an agnostic."[22] (Yes, apparently there was a time!)

Widdecombe vehemently opposed the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008Wikipedia's W.svg which made changes to laws regarding abortion and stem cell research,[23] as well for allowing those darn sodomites and lesviots to be both named on their child's birth certificate.[24]

Animal testing[edit]

Widders takes a concern in animal welfare, and pressed the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government for major reform with regards to animal testing.[25]

Controversies[edit]

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".[26]

In 1996, Widdecombe, as prisons minister, defended the Government's policy to shackle pregnant prisoners with handcuffs and chains when in hospital receiving antenatal care. 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". Jack Straw, Labour's Home Affairs spokesman at the time, said it was "degrading and unnecessary" for a woman to be shackled at any stage .[27][28]

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 remarked that "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.[29] 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."[30]

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.[31]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Anne Widdecombe saying "Booyakasha" on Have I Got News For You, YouTube
  2. Junior: My Cats (Widdecombe's personal website)
  3. "UK Politics: Ask Ann Widdecombe", BBC News. February 8, 1999
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Ann Widdecombe" on Conservapediaimg
  5. The Catholic Church is a force for good — Intelligence Squared debates, YouTube.
  6. "Tony Blair joins catholic church". London: bbconline. 22 December 2007. 
  7. "Ann Widdecombe – extended interview by Alyssa McDonald". New Statesman. UK. 19 July 2010. 
  8. Crampton, Caroline. "Ann Widdecombe rules out Vatican appointment". The New Statesman. 
  9. "Ann Widdecombe awarded papal honour". Independent Catholic News. 31 January 2013. 
  10. Ed West (23 October 2009). "Atheist duo convince crowd that the Church is not a force for good". The Catholic Herald (London).  Archived 26 June 2012.
  11. Ann Widdecombe speaks about Christian persecution, YouTube.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Eagleton, Terry. Sackcloth and Ashes review – Ann Widdecombe on hedonism and self-denial 13 March 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Commons approves bill to lower gay age of consent, The Guardian. 11 February 2000
  14. This is despite Ms Widdecombe not having a TV until 1999, saying that TV and sex were things she did "very nicely without".
  15. Have I Got News For You - Webisode 6 - BBC One, YouTube. "I don't think I shall return to this programme."
  16. Widdecombe disgusted by Carr's 'filth', Daily Express, quoted by The Guardian in 28 November 2007. (Archived from the original on 1 December 2007)
  17. Fullerton, Hew. Paul Merton: Ann Widdecombe was Have I Got News For You's worst ever host Radio Times. 4 October 2014.
  18. Harp, Justin. Ann Widdecombe was worst HIGNFY guest host, says Paul Merton Digital Spy. 5 October 2014
  19. Ann Widdecombe switches on BBC News. 29 October 1999.
  20. Widdecombe, Ann. We are crying out for a new Mary Whitehouse 4 June 2008
  21. Ann Widdecombe: 'I was very alienated by gay marriage', Pink News.
  22. Ann Widdecombe answers your questions, BBC News.
  23. http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/2013547.anne_widdecombe_speaks_out_on_the_human_fertilisation_and_embryology_bill/
  24. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/2992.html
  25. Widdecombe, Ann. Animal testing should not be shrouded in secrecy. We need real reform now 17 May 2014
  26. Roth, Andrew (20 March 2001). "Ann Widdecombe". The Guardian (London). 
  27. "Chaining women backed". The Independent (London). 10 January 1996.  Archived 12 October 2010.
  28. "Hague's head girl". The Guardian (London). 18 March 2000.  Archived 16 September 2010.
  29. "Steve Bell cartoon at guardian.co.uk". Guardian (UK). 
  30. "Live chat with Tory Ann Widdecombe at". Daily Mail (UK). 10 October 2002. 
  31. "Widdecombe lashes out at 'backbiters'". The Torygraph.