Ann Widdecombe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ann Widdecombe
Widdecombe in 2009
Minister of State for Prisons
In office
28 February 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byMichael Forsyth
Succeeded byJoyce Quin
Minister of State for Employment[a]
In office
27 May 1993 – 5 July 1995
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byPatrick McLoughlin
Succeeded byLord Henley
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security
In office
30 November 1990 – 27 May 1993
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byGillian Shephard
Succeeded byWilliam Hague
Member of the European Parliament
for South West England
In office
2 July 2019 – 31 January 2020
Preceded byJulia Reid
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Maidstone and The Weald
Maidstone (1987–1997)
In office
11 June 1987 – 12 April 2010
Preceded byJohn Wells
Succeeded byHelen Grant
Shadow Cabinet offices
1998–1999Shadow Secretary of State for Health
1999–2001Shadow Home Secretary
Personal details
Ann Noreen Widdecombe

(1947-10-04) 4 October 1947 (age 75)
Bath, Somerset, England
Political partyReform UK (2023–present)[1]
Other political
Conservative (1976–2019)
Brexit Party (2019–2021)
Independent (2021–2023)
Residence(s)London, England
Sutton Valence, Kent, England
Haytor Vale, Dartmoor, Devon, England
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Widdecombe at a book club hosted by Edwina Currie in Clapham, 2010

Ann Noreen Widdecombe DSG (born 4 October 1947) is a British politician and television personality. She was Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidstone and The Weald, and the former Maidstone constituency, from 1987 to 2010 and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South West England from 2019 to 2020. Originally a member of the Conservative Party, she was a member of the Brexit Party from 2019 until it was renamed Reform UK in 2021;[2] she rejoined Reform UK in 2023.

Born in Bath, Somerset, Widdecombe read Latin at the University of Birmingham and later studied philosophy, politics and economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She is a religious convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, and was a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship. She served as Minister of State for Employment from 1994 to 1995 and Minister of State for Prisons from 1995 to 1997. She later served in the Shadow Cabinet of William Hague as Shadow Secretary of State for Health from 1998 to 1999 and Shadow Home Secretary from 1999 to 2001. She was appointed to the Privy Council in 1997.

Widdecombe stood down from the House of Commons at the 2010 general election. Since 2002, she has made numerous television and radio appearances, including as a television presenter. A prominent Eurosceptic, in 2016 she supported the Vote Leave campaign to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). Widdecombe returned to politics as the lead candidate for the Brexit Party in South West England at the 2019 European Parliament election, winning the seat in line with results nationally, serving until the country left the EU on 31 January 2020. In the general election of December 2019 – as with all other candidates for the Commons fielded by the Brexit Party – she did not win the seat she contested (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport), but retained her deposit and came third.

Ideologically, Widdecombe identifies herself as a social conservative and stresses the importance of traditional values and conservatism. As a member of the House of Commons, she opposed the legality of abortion, opposed granting LGBT people legal rights such as the same age of consent as heterosexuals and the repeal of Section 28, and supported the retention of blasphemy laws.[3][4][5] She supported reintroduction of the death penalty for murder, though more narrowly applied than previously. She has a history of supporting rigorous laws on animal protection and opposition to fox hunting.

Early life[edit]

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 a Catholic family of English descent in Crosshaven, County Cork, Ireland in 1874.

She attended the Royal Naval School in Singapore,[6] and La Sainte Union Convent School in Bath.[7] She then read Latin at the University of Birmingham and later attended Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to read philosophy, politics and economics.[8] In 1971, she was the secretary of the Oxford Union for one term, and became its treasurer for one term in 1972.[9]

While studying at Oxford, she lived next door to Mary Archer, Edwina Currie, and Gyles Brandreth's wife Michèle Brown.[10] She worked for Unilever (1973–75) and then as an administrator at the University of London (1975–87) before entering Parliament.[7]

Political career[edit]

In 1974, Widdecombe was personal assistant to Michael Ancram in the February and October general elections of that year.[9] From 1976 to 1978, Widdecombe was a councillor on Runnymede District Council in Surrey.[11]

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.[12][13] In 1983 she, with Lady Olga Maitland and Virginia Bottomley, co-founded Women and Families for Defence, a group founded in opposition to the anti-nuclear Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.[14]

Widdecombe was first elected to the House of Commons, for the Conservatives, in the 1987 general election as member for the constituency of Maidstone (which became Maidstone and The Weald in 1997).[15]

In government[edit]

Widdecombe joined Prime Minister 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 the UK.[16]

In 1996, Widdecombe, as prisons minister, defended the Government's policy to shackle pregnant prisoners with handcuffs and chains when in hospital receiving prenatal care. Widdecombe told the Commons that the restrictions were needed to prevent prisoners from escaping the hospital. "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.[17][18]

Shadow Cabinet[edit]

In May 1997, in the context of an inquiry into a series of prison escapes, Widdecombe remarked of former Home Secretary Michael Howard, under whom she had served, that there is "something of the night" about him.[19] This much-quoted comment is thought to have contributed to the failure of Howard's 1997 campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, a sentiment shared by both Howard himself and Widdecombe. It led to him being caricatured as a vampire, in part due to his Romanian ancestry.[20][21][22] Howard became the official party leader in 2003, and Widdecombe then stated, "I explained fully what my objections were in 1997 and I do not retract anything I said then. But ... we have to look to the future and not the past."[23]

After the Conservative landslide defeat at the 1997 general election, she served as Shadow Health Secretary between 1998 and 1999 and later as Shadow Home Secretary from 1999 to 2001 under the leadership of William Hague.[24]

Leadership contest and backbenches[edit]

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 2001, when Michael Portillo was running for leader of the Conservative Party, Widdecombe described him and his allies as "backbiters" due to his alleged destabilising influence under Hague.[25][26] She went on to say that, should he be appointed leader, she would never give him her allegiance.[25] This was amidst a homophobic campaign led by socially conservative critics of Portillo.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29] She confirmed her intention to stand down to The Observer's Pendennis diary in September 2007,[30] and again in October 2007 after Prime Minister Gordon Brown quashed speculation of an autumn 2007 general election.[25]

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."[31]

In 2007 Widdecombe was one of the 98 MPs who voted to keep their expense details secret.[32] When the expenses claims were leaked, however, Widdecombe was described by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "saints" amongst all MPs.[33]

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.[34] On 11 June 2009, she confirmed her bid to be the Speaker,[35] but came last in the second ballot and was eliminated.[36]

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 since spoke about her opposition to the Coalition Government and her surprise at not being given a peerage by David Cameron.[37]

In 2016, she supported Brexit during the 2016 EU referendum and, following the resignation of David Cameron, endorsed Andrea Leadsom in her candidacy for election for the leadership of the governing Conservative Party.[38][39]

Return to politics – Brexit Party[edit]

In 2019 she returned to politics as a candidate for the Brexit Party in the European parliament elections in South West England, which were held on 23 May, though she maintained that she would still vote for the Conservatives in the local elections that took place three weeks before.[40] She was expelled by the Conservative Party immediately after her announcement.[41] Widdecombe had considered joining the Brexit Party in March 2019, but joined later, in May.[42]

Widdecombe said that her decision to stand resulted from the Government's failure to deliver Britain's departure from the EU on schedule. "Both major parties need a seismic shock," she said, "to see the extent of public disgust."[41][40] She subsequently won her seat.[43]

Widdecombe became a member of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).[44]

Widdecombe stood as a candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in the 2019 UK general election, coming a distant third but just retaining her deposit with 5.5% of the vote. Nigel Farage said that she was told by the Conservative Party that she would be part of their Brexit negotiations if she stood down as a candidate.[45]

Political views[edit]

Social issues[edit]

As an MP, Widdecombe expressed socially 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 characterised the issue as one of life and death on which her view had been the same when she was agnostic[46] and was a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children while studying at Oxford.[47] During Parliament, Widdecombe was a member of the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group, which met with SPUC over concerns the organisation's more strident approach to abortion policy could alienate Protestant and atheist supporters.[48] She converted from the Church of England (CoE) to the Roman Catholic Church following the CoE decision to ordinate women as priests.[49]

Criminal justice[edit]

In her speech at the 2000 Conservative conference, she called for a zero tolerance policy of prosecution, with the punishment of £100 fines for users of cannabis. This was well received by rank-and-file Conservative delegates.[50]

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, arguing that in the five years up to 1970 when the death penalty was suspended, the national murder rate had more than doubled.[51]

Environmental and science issues[edit]

She is a committed animal lover and one of the several Conservative MPs to have consistently voted for the ban on the hunting of foxes.[52] Widdecombe was among more than 20 high-profile people who signed a letter to Members of Parliament in 2015 to oppose David Cameron's plan to amend the Hunting Act 2004.[53]

In 2007, she wrote that she did not want to belittle the issue of climate change, but was sceptical of the claims that specific actions would prevent catastrophe.[54] In 2008, she wrote that her doubts had been "crystalised" by Nigel Lawson's book An Appeal to Reason;[55] in 2014, she likened Lawson's difficulty in getting the book published to the book-burnings in Nazi Germany.[56] Later in 2008, Widdecombe claimed that the "science of climate change is robustly disputed",[56], then, in 2009, that "There is no climate change, hasn't anybody looked out of their window recently?"[57] She was one of the five MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act 2008.[56][58]

The previous year, she voted to support a parliamentary motion in favour of homeopathy, disagreeing with the Science and Technology Committee's Report on the subject.[59]

LGBT rights[edit]

Widdecombe supported the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 in England and Wales. After that, Widdecombe consistently opposed further reforms while in Parliament. Out of the 17 parliamentary votes between 1998 and 2008 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.[60] In 1999, Widdecombe stated that "I do not think that [homosexuality] can be promoted as an equally valid lifestyle to [heterosexual] marriage, but I would say the same about irregular heterosexual arrangements."[46]

She has consistently argued against an equal age of consent for same-sex relationships, voting against a 1994 act (which would have reduced the age of consent for some male-male sexual activity from 21 to 18), and in 1998 (arguing against a further reduction from 18 to 16, which later occurred in 2000).[9] On the latter act, she wrote in The Mail on Sunday that "one of the sundry horrors for which this Government is likely to be remembered will be that it gave its imprimatur to sodomy at 16",[61] She later said in 2000: "I do not believe that issues of equality should override the imperatives of protecting the young."[62] In 2003, Widdecombe opposed the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.[63] In 2012, Widdecombe voiced support in the Daily Express for the practise of conversion therapy, which claims to change the orientation of homosexuals.[64]

Widdecombe has also expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage, introduced by David Cameron's government in 2014, arguing that "the state must have a preferred model" which is "a union that is generally open to procreation".[65] She also opposes gender self-identification for transgender people.[66] In 2020, she expressed her opposition to same-sex dancing on Strictly Come Dancing, saying: "I don't think it is what viewers of Strictly, especially families, are looking for. But that's up to the audience and the programme."[67][68]


In 2009, she partially defended Carol Thatcher's use of the racial slur 'golliwog' on Any Questions?, saying: "There is a generation to whom a golliwog is merely a toy, a generation which was much endeared by its golliwogs which grew up with them on jam jars ... and there is a generation, a new generation for whom that word is deeply offensive and one does have to make I think some allowance for the fact."[69] In December 2019, leaked WhatsApp conversations to the Plymouth Herald between her and Brexit Party activists showed Widdecombe using the term amid rumours BP campaign funding was being diverted away from Plymouth ahead of the general election of that year. Widdecombe said: "Yes, I threw all my toys of the pram. Bears and gollywogs flying everywhere!!".[70][71]

In 2019 Widdecombe defended the comments she made in a 2012 article that supported "gay conversion" therapy.[72] She told Sky News that science may yet "provide an answer" to the question of whether people can "switch sexuality".[73] Following Widdecombe's apparent endorsement of conversion therapy, at least one venue, the Landmark theatre in Ilfracombe, Devon, cancelled a performance of her one-woman show.[74]

Widdecombe and two other Brexit Party figures were criticised for previous appearances on the David Icke-affiliated Richie Allen Show, which has been accused of promoting Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family and Zionism. Widdecombe appeared three times between August 2017 and April 2019 and was described as an "old friend of the show" by the host during one appearance.[75][76] Widdecombe told Jewish Chronicle that she agreed to appear to discuss Brexit, and that she "had never heard of the Richie Allen Show until I agreed to go on" and distanced herself from its antisemitic content by, among other things, pointing to her membership of the Conservative Friends of Israel, B'nai B'rith event speeches, and her novel An Act of Treachery, which she said is set during the Holocaust.[77]

Widdecombe was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Brexit Party on 23 May 2019 in the European elections. On 3 July 2019 she used her maiden speech in Strasbourg to compare Brexit to slaves revolting against their owners and to a colonised country rising up against occupying forces, a stance which was criticised by members of both the European Parliament and the British House of Commons.[78][79][80][81]

Media work and appearances[edit]

Widdecombe in an Any Questions? broadcast in 2016 at the Nexus Methodist Church, Bath

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.[82] In March 2004 she briefly became The Guardian newspaper's agony aunt, introduced with an Emma Brockes interview.[83] In 2005 BBC Two showed six episodes of The Widdecombe Project, an agony aunt television programme.[84] In 2005, she appeared in a new series of Celebrity Fit Club, this time as an agony aunt.[84][85] Also in 2005, she presented the show Ann Widdecombe to the Rescue in which she acted as an agony aunt, dispensing advice to disputing families, couples, and others across the UK.[84] In 2005, she 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.[86]

She was the guest host of news quiz Have I Got News for You twice, in 2006 and 2007. Her first appearance as guest host, in 2006, was widely regarded as a success.[87][88] Following her second appearance, Widdecombe said she would never appear on the show again because of comments made by panellist Jimmy Carr which she considered filth,[89] though she called regular panellists Ian Hislop and Paul Merton "the fastest wits in showbusiness".[89] Merton later revealed that he thought Widdecombe had been "the worst ever presenter" of the show, particularly on her second appearance where Merton claimed she "thought she was Victoria Wood".[90]

In 2007 she awarded the University Challenge trophy to the winners.[91] In the same year, she appeared in "The Sound of Drums", the 12th episode of the third series of the science-fiction drama Doctor Who, endorsing the Master's Prime Minister campaign.[92] In 2007 and 2008 Widdecombe fronted a television series called Ann Widdecombe Versus, on ITV1, in which she spoke to various people about things related to her as an MP, with an emphasis on confronting those responsible for problems she wished to tackle. In 2007 she talked about prostitution, social benefits, and truancy. A fourth episode was screened on 18 September 2008 in which she travelled around London and Birmingham talking to girl gangs.[93]

In 2009, Widdecombe appeared with Archbishop John Onaiyekan 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, who won the debate overall.[94]

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.[95][96] After nine weeks of routines strongly flavoured by comedy, the couple was eliminated, in the bottom two. In 2011 Widdecombe played the Lord Mayoress in an episode of Sooty.[97]

In 2012, Widdecombe hosted the 30 one-hour episodes of Cleverdicks, a quiz show for the Sky Atlantic channel.[98] In 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 alcohol consumption had changed over the previous few years.[99][100] Widdecombe was in a Strictly Come Dancing special in Children in Need's 2012 appeal night.[101] On 4 November 2012, Widdecombe guest-hosted one episode of BBC's Songs of Praise programme about singleness.[102]

In October 2014, she appeared in the BBC series Celebrity Antiques Road Trip with expert Mark Stacey.[103]

Widdecombe took part in a four-part BBC One television series 24 Hours in the Past, along with Colin Jackson, Alistair McGowan, Miquita Oliver, Tyger Drew-Honey and Zoe Lucker in April and May 2015, involving experiencing life as workers in a dustyard, coachhouse, pottery, and as workhouse inmates in 1840s Britain. She took part in an episode of Tipping Point: Lucky Stars in 2016. In 2017, Widdecombe took part in ITV's Sugar Free Farm.

In January 2018, Widdecombe participated in the Celebrity Big Brother twenty-first series;[104] she was criticised over her comments regarding the Harvey Weinstein controversy[105] and comments perceived to be anti-LGBT to her fellow housemates, most notably to drag queen Courtney Act (Shane Jenek).[106][18][107] She finished the competition in second place, behind Jenek.[108]

In 2019 Widdecombe appeared on the new celebrity version of The Crystal Maze, where alongside Sunetra Sarker, Wes Nelson, Matthew Wright and Nikki Sanderson, she won money for Stand Up to Cancer.[109]

In 2020 Widdecombe travelled to Norway for three days to visit Halden Prison, for the documentary, of The World's Most Luxurious Prison.[110]

Stage acting career[edit]

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.[111] In April 2012, she had a ten-minute non-singing cameo part in Gaetano Donizetti's comic opera La Fille du Regiment, playing the Duchesse de Crackentorp.[112] Widdecombe reprised her pantomime performance, again with Horwood, at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe in December 2012.[113]

Widdecombe stepped in at short notice to play the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, at Bridlington Spa in December 2016. She replaced injured Lorraine Chase. This was Widdecombe's first appearance as a pantomime 'baddie'; a role she told the press she had always hoped for.[114]

In December 2017 Widdecombe played the Empress of China in the pantomime Aladdin at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.[115]

Personal life and family[edit]

Until her retirement following the 2010 general election, Widdecombe divided her time between her two homes – one in London and one in the countryside village of Sutton Valence, Kent, in her constituency.[116] She sold both upon retiring at the next general election.[117][118] She shared her home in London with her widowed mother, Rita Widdecombe, until Rita's death, on 25 April 2007, aged 95.[119] In March 2008, she bought a house in Haytor Vale, on Dartmoor in Devon, where she retired.[120] Her brother, Malcolm (1937–2010), who was an Anglican canon in Bristol, retired in May 2009 and died in October 2010.[121] Her nephew, Roger Widdecombe, is an Anglican priest.[122]

Widdecombe in 2006

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".[123]

A 2001 report in The Guardian said that she had had a three-year romance while studying at the University of Oxford;[124] Widdecombe confirmed this in January 2018 on the UK reality TV show Big Brother, explaining that she had ended the romance in order to prioritise her career.[125][83]

Widdecombe has a fondness for cats and many other animals such as foxes; a section of her website, the Widdyweb, is about the pet cats she has lived with.[126] Widdecombe adopted two goats at the Buttercups Goat Sanctuary in Boughton Monchelsea near Maidstone.[127] In an interview, Widdecombe talked about her appreciation of music, despite describing herself as "pretty well tone-deaf".[128][129]

Outside politics she writes novels, and a weekly column for the Daily Express.[130]

In January 2011 Widdecombe was President of the North of England Education Conference in Blackpool, and gave a speech there supporting selective education and opposing the ban on new grammar schools being built.[131][132][133] She also became a patron of The Grace Charity for M.E.[134]

In April 2012 Widdecom said that she was writing her own autobiography, which she described as "rude about all and sundry, but an amount of truth is always necessary".[37] Widdecombe is a Patron of the charity Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land (SHADH) and in 2014 visited the SHADH Donkey Sanctuary in the West Bank.[135]

Religious views[edit]

Widdecombe became an Anglican in her 30s, after a period of being an agnostic following her departure from religious schooling.[83] She converted to Catholicism in 1993 after leaving the Church of England,[136] explaining 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.[137]

In October 2006, she pledged to boycott British Airways for suspending a worker who refused to hide her Christian cross, until the company reversed the suspension.[138]

In 2010, Widdecombe turned down the offer to be Britain's next ambassador to the Holy See, being prevented from accepting by suffering a detached retina.[139] 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.[140]


Selected publications[edit]


  • 2000: The Clematis Tree. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-297-64572-2
  • 2002: An Act of Treachery. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-297-64573-0
  • 2005: Father Figure. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-297-82962-9
  • 2005: An Act of Peace. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-297-82958-0


  • 1999: Inspired and Outspoken: the collected speeches of Ann Widdecombe; edited by John Simmons, with a biographical preface by Nick Kochan. London: Politico's Publishing ISBN 1-902301-22-6
  • 2004: The Mass is a Mess, with Martin Kochanski. London: Catholic Writers' Guild

Further reading[edit]

  • 2000: Kochan, Nicholas Ann Widdecombe: right from the beginning. London: Politico's Publishing ISBN 1-902301-55-2


  1. ^ Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (1993–94)


  1. ^ Langford, Eleanor (20 March 2023). "Nigel Farage insists 'Brexit is not completely done' as Reform UK calls on Tory MPs to defect". Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  2. ^ "Ann Widdecombe demands Tories 'end cancel culture' in the lead-up to the leadership election". YouTube.
  3. ^ Freyne, Patrick (23 June 2014). "Ann Widdecombe: 'I'm a feminist in the 1970s sense. Now it's a big whinge'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  4. ^ Bloom, Dan; Gilpin, Andrew (24 April 2019). "Ann Widdecombe leaves Tories for Nigel Farage's Brexit party". KentLive. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  5. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 May 2008 (pt 0015)". Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  6. ^ Ann Widdecombe set to stand down; BBC News, 7 October 2007
  7. ^ a b "About Ann". Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  8. ^ "LMH, Oxford – Prominent Alumni". Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Roth, Andrew. "Ann (Noreen) WIDDECOMBE" (PDF). Parliamentary Profile Services Ltd: 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Have I Got News For You, Series 25 Episode 6 with Hugh Dennis, Gyles Brandreth & Martin Freeman".
  11. ^ Ashley, Jackie (3 November 2003). "Seeing something of the light at the end of the tunnel". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 December 2008.
  12. ^ "UK General Election results May 1979". Political Science Resources. Richard Kimber. 3 May 1979. Archived from the original on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  13. ^ "UK General Election results June 1983". Political Science Resources. Richard Kimber. 9 June 1983. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  14. ^ Martin, Lorna (19 August 2006). "The battle of Greenham Common is over. But their spirit still burns". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Maidstone and The Weald Archived 27 May 2022 at the Wayback Machine, UKPollingReport
  16. ^ "Ann Widdecombe – political sketch". BBC Online. London. 2 June 1998. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  17. ^ "Chaining women backed". The Independent. London. 10 January 1996. Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  18. ^ a b "Hague's head girl". The Guardian. London. 18 March 2000. Archived from the original on 16 September 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  19. ^ Sengupta, Kim; Abrams, Fran (12 May 1997). "Widdecombe goes for the jugular". The Independent. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  20. ^ "Ann Widdecombe 'tested out' Howard quip". BBC News. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  21. ^ Crick, Michael (30 March 2005). "'Mission accomplished': how Howard was knifed". The Times. Retrieved 3 April 2017. (subscription required) Extract from Crick's book In search of Michael Howard.
  22. ^ Holland, David (3 May 2011). "Interview with a Vampire". The Tab.
  23. ^ "Ann Widdecombe: Fury as MEP says 'science may produce an answer' to being gay". Daily Mirror. UK. 2 June 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Ann Widdecombe: Electoral history and profile". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  25. ^ a b c "Ann Widdecombe set to stand down". BBC News. 8 October 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  26. ^ a b Timothy Heppell (28 November 2007). Choosing the Tory Leader: Conservative Party Leadership Elections from Heath to Cameron. I.B.Tauris. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-85771-134-2.
  27. ^ Llewellyn Smith, Julia (15 June 2014). "Ann Widdecombe: 'I'd rather form my own party than join Ukip'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  28. ^ Dale, Iain (3 October 2006). "Taking the media beast to the dragon's den". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  29. ^ Andrew Williams (11 September 2006). "60 Seconds: Ann Widdecombe". Metro. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  30. ^ Marre, Oliver (2 September 2007). "Widdy knows the way to a man's heart". The Observer. London. Retrieved 7 October 2007.
  31. ^ "Anne gets taste of council estate life". Islington Gazette. 22 November 2006. Retrieved 28 November 2006.
  32. ^ Naughton, Philippe; Costello, Miles (20 May 2007). "How your MP voted on the FOI Bill". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 8 May 2009.
  33. ^ "MPs' expenses: The saints (Part i)". The Daily Telegraph. London. 18 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009.
  34. ^ "Speaker: Runners and riders". BBC. London. 21 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  35. ^ "Ann Widdecombe seeks Speaker role". BBC News. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  36. ^ "Two left in Commons Speaker race". London: BBC online. 22 June 2009. Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  37. ^ a b Chorley, Matt. "Ann Widdecombe on hating the coalition, doing Big Brother and her rude autobiography". London. Archived from the original on 22 June 2012.
  38. ^ Widdecombe, Ann (16 March 2016). "Here's why I back Brexit – says ANN WIDDECOMBE".
  39. ^ Widdecombe, Ann (6 July 2016). "Tories NEED to pick Angela Leadsom as leader: ANN WIDDECOMBE calls for LEAVE-backing PM".
  40. ^ a b "Ann Widdecombe to stand for Brexit Party". BBC News. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  41. ^ a b "Ann Widdecombe reveals she has been EXPELLED from Tories after defection to Brexit Party". Express online. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  42. ^ "Iain Dale Interviews: Ann Widdecombe". Archived from the original on 22 November 2021 – via
  43. ^ "Brexit Party's Ann Widdecombe wins South West seat". BBC News. 27 May 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  44. ^ "EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - PARLEMENT EUROPEEN - Conference of Presidents - C01 AFET" (PDF). European Parliament. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 July 2019.
  45. ^ "Ann Widdecombe 'was offered Brexit talks role to stand down as Farage candidate'". The Guardian. 14 November 2019. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  46. ^ a b "Ann Widdecombe answers your questions". BBC News. 16 February 1999. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  47. ^ Roth, Andrew (20 March 2001). "Ann Widdecombe". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  48. ^ "BBC News | UK Politics | MPs enter pro-life group row".
  49. ^ "Widdecombe rejects abortion role". BBC News. 13 June 1998. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  50. ^ Watt, Nicholas (6 October 2000). "Widdecombe fights back firm". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  51. ^ "Death penalty call renewed". BBC News. 21 August 2002.
  52. ^ "Ann Widdecombe compared to 'Fox hunting – Ban'", Public Whip. Retrieved on 21 March 2009.
  53. ^ "SNP to vote against Tories on fox hunting ban in England and Wales". STV. 13 July 2015. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  54. ^ "Switching Lightbulbs won't change the world". 21 March 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  55. ^ "Yes, I am a heretic on global warming". 18 June 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  56. ^ a b c "These are the climate change deniers in the Brexit Party". The National. 12 November 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  57. ^ "Article including refutation of any global warming". 12 January 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  58. ^ "Climate Change Bill — Third Reading (and other amendments)". The Public Whip. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  59. ^ "UK Parliament Early day motion 908". Parliament UK. 23 February 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  60. ^ "Ann Widdecombe compared to 'Homosexuality – Equal rights'", Public Whip. Retrieved on 24 June 2009.
  61. ^ Abrams, Fran (8 June 1998). "Tory hits out at gays and lone parents". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  62. ^ "Commons approves bill to lower gay age of consent". The Guardian. London. 11 February 2000. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  63. ^ Watt, Nicholas (11 March 2003). "Tory split in vote to scrap section 28". The Guardian.
  64. ^ Simons, Ned (2 February 2012). "Ann Widdecombe Defends Gay Conversion Therapy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  65. ^ Moss, Stephen (6 June 2013). "Ann Widdecombe: 'I wish David Cameron would listen to people'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  66. ^ Duffy, Nick (6 June 2018). "Ann Widdecombe lashes out at transgender 'lunacy'". PinkNews. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  67. ^ Milton, Josh (18 October 2020). "Ann Widdecombe says 'families' don't want to watch a same-sex couple dance on Strictly Come Dancing and we are so, so tired". PinkNews. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  68. ^ Tucker, Grant (18 October 2020). "Strictly Come Dancing breaks step with first same‑sex pair". The Times. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  69. ^ "Transcript: Any Questions?". BBC Radio 4. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  70. ^ O'Leary, Miles (10 December 2019). "Ann Widdecombe accused of 'racist comments' in Brexit Party Whatsapp group". PlymouthLive. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  71. ^ Devlin, Kate (11 December 2019). "Ann Widdecombe in race row after leaked WhatsApp conversation". The Times. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  72. ^ "Helping those who aren't glad to be gay". Daily Mirror. UK. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  73. ^ "Ann Widdecombe: Science may 'produce an answer' to homosexuality". Sky News. UK. 2 June 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  74. ^ Weaver, Matthew (5 June 2019). "Ann Widdecombe one-woman show pulled after gay therapy remark". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  75. ^ Erich, Ben (18 August 2019). "Brexit Party figures 'appeared on show which promoted Holocaust denial'". The Jewish Chronicle.
  76. ^ Cohen, Ben (19 August 2019). "Leading Brexit Party figures in UK exposed as contributors to radio show pushing Holocaust denial". The Algemeiner. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  77. ^ Weich, Ben (22 August 2019). "Ann Widdecombe defends appearances on 'antisemitic' radio stations". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  78. ^ Payne, Adam; Colson, Thomas. "Brexit Party's Ann Widdecombe condemned for 'disgraceful' remarks comparing the EU to slave owners". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  79. ^ Payne, Adam; Colson, Thomas. "Brexit Party's Ann Widdecombe condemned for 'disgraceful' remarks comparing the EU to slave owners". Telegraph. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  80. ^ Crisp, James (4 July 2019). "News Politics Ann Widdecombe compares EU to slave owners in maiden European Parliament speech". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  81. ^ Scott, Jennifer (4 July 2019). "Widdecombe's slavery remarks 'disgusting'". BBC. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  82. ^ "Ann Widdecombe: The truth about me and Louis Theroux". The Independent. London. 5 March 2002. Archived from the original on 17 May 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  83. ^ a b c Brockes, Emma (29 March 2004). "What a stupid question". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  84. ^ a b c "Ann Widdecombe MP: an unlikely agony aunt". The Independent. London. 28 June 2005. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  85. ^ "MP Widdecombe is BBC agony aunt". BBC. 12 August 2004. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  86. ^ Bond, Jenni (12 July 2004). "Diary – Jenni Bond". New Statesman. UK. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  87. ^ Sherwin, Adam (2 April 2018). "'Arrogant' Ann Widdecombe the worst Have I Got News For You guest presenter, says Paul Merton". Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  88. ^ "Top 10 Have I Got News For You guest hosts: Damian Lewis to Boris Johnson". 9 November 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  89. ^ a b Ann Widdecombe in the Daily Express, as quoted by Media Monkey (28 November 2007). "Widdecombe disgusted by Carr's 'filth'". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  90. ^ Butterworth, Benjamin (5 April 2018). "Anti-LGBT politician Ann Widdecombe was the 'worst Have I Got News For You presenter ever'". Pink News. UK. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  91. ^ "University Challenge". UK Game Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  92. ^ Peter Ware. "Doctor Who – Fact File – "The Sound of Drums"". Doctor Who: the official site. BBC. Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  93. ^ Naughton, Philippe; Costello, Miles (19 September 2008). "Ann Widdecombe Versus Girl Gangs; No Heroics; Hollyoaks at". The Times. London. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  94. ^ Ed West (23 October 2009). "Atheist duo convince crowd that the Church is not a force for good". The Catholic Herald. London. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  95. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing at". BBC. 2 October 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  96. ^ Grice, Elizabeth (21 October 2010). "Interview with Ann Widdecombe at". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  97. ^ "Sooty Season 1". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  98. ^ "Ann Widdecombe to host new TV quiz show". 12 October 2011.
  99. ^ "Drunk Again: Anne Widdecombe Investigates". BBC. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  100. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (28 April 2012). "Rewind radio: Drunk Again: Ann Widdecombe Investigates; Sunday Feature: AL Kennedy's Art of Madness; The Radio Ballads: Never Again – A Lament for the Titanic – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  101. ^ Fletcher, Alex (30 October 2012). "Russell Grant, Widdecombe return to 'Strictly' for Children in Need". Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  102. ^ "Ann's happy to be Strictly a singleton". 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  103. ^ "BBC Two – Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, Series 1, Episode 1". BBC.
  104. ^ "Who's in the new Celebrity Big Brother house?". BBC News. 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  105. ^ "Ann Widdecombe accused of victim blaming after CBB Weinstein discussion". 4 January 2018. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  106. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (31 January 2018). "Ann Widdecombe isn't a harmless comedy old lady – she's a homophobe". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  107. ^ Cumberbatch, Aimée Grant (23 January 2018). "Celebrity Big Brother fans brand Ann Widdecombe a 'homophobe'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  108. ^ Powell, Emma. "Courtney Act aka Shane Jenek beats Ann Widdecombe to win CBB". Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  109. ^ "Ann Widdecombe hits out at EU officials over Brexit during Celebrity Crystal Maze task". 12 July 2019.
  110. ^ "The World's Most Luxurious Prison". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  111. ^ "Ann Widdecombe to star in panto in Dartford". BBC News.
  112. ^ "Ann Widdecombe makes opera debut". BBC News.
  113. ^ "HQ Theatres".
  114. ^ "Widdecombe quick-steps in to save the show". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  115. ^ "Marina Panto 2017: Aladdin – Marina Theatre". Archived from the original on 2 February 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  116. ^ "Ann Widdecombe at". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  117. ^ Wharton, Craig (2 October 2009). "An interview with Ann Widdecombe". The Politics Show. London: BBC. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  118. ^ Venning, Nicola (21 May 2008). "Division bell rings for retiring Ann Widdecombe". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009.
  119. ^ Brankin, Una (12 June 2014). "Strictly Ann: Ann Widdecombe on why she'll sue anyone who says she's not a virgin". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  120. ^ Joint, Laura (6 August 2008). "Widdecombe moves to Haytor". BBC Devon. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  121. ^ "Tributes to Malcolm Widdecombe". 13 April 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  122. ^ "Thanksgiving Service at". Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  123. ^ "Ann Widdecombe on BBC "Woman's Hour" at". BBC. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  124. ^ Glover, Julian; Roth, Andrew. "RIP: Ann Widdecombe's political career". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2001.
  125. ^ Roche, Elisa (28 April 2011). "Ann Widdecombe: I regret not having children and losing the love of my life". Express. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  126. ^ "Ann Widdecombe's Cats | Official Ann Widdecombe Web Site (WiddyWeb)".
  127. ^ "Ann Widdecombe". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  128. ^ "Five Minutes With: Ann Widdecombe". BBC News. 16 July 2011.
  129. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (15 April 2005). "Ann Widdecombe". The Guardian. London.
  130. ^ Harp, Justin (10 January 2018). "CBB explains how Ann is continuing her outside work". Digital Spy. Retrieved 17 February 2018. Eyebrows were raised for some when the former Tory MP's weekly op-ed piece was published as usual by the Daily Express on Wednesday (10 January), drawing questions about the procedure for her to continue her outside work.
  131. ^ "Treat children strictly, says dancing star Widdecombe". The Times. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  132. ^ Ross, Tim (6 January 2011). "Ann Widdecombe: lift ban on grammar schools". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  133. ^ Shepherd, Jessica (5 January 2011). "Grammar school ban must end, Ann Widdecombe urges". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  134. ^ "Welcome to the Grace Charity for M.E." The Grace Charity for M.E. Archived from the original on 30 October 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  135. ^ "Safe For Life: Ann Widdecombe Visits Donkey Charity". Good News Shared. July 2014.
  136. ^ "Tony Blair joins catholic church". London: bbconline. 22 December 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  137. ^ "Ann Widdecombe – extended interview by Alyssa McDonald". New Statesman. UK. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  138. ^ "Widdecombe pledges to boycott BA". Metro. 15 October 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  139. ^ Crampton, Caroline. "Ann Widdecombe rules out Vatican appointment". The New Statesman. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  140. ^ "Ann Widdecombe awarded papal honour". Independent Catholic News. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  141. ^ "Widdecombe, Holland and Underwood are appointed honorary fellows". Canterbury Christ Church University. 3 February 2009. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  142. ^ "Honorary graduands for July 2012". Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  143. ^ "Ann Widdecombe awarded papal honour". 31 January 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2020.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Maidstone

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Maidstone and The Weald

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by