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"Neither Mrs Thatcher or I, would have any time for the sisterhood approach" says Ann Widdecombe

By Joseph Willits 
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Screen shot 2011-11-27 at 17.29.36The main premise of the BBC's Fern Meets Ann Widdecombe, emphasised the issue of vulnerability. Much was made of Widdecombe, a spinster, living alone amidst the wilderness of Dartmoor, yet with the backdrop of celebrity outings in Strictly Come Dancing, and an upcoming pantomine as Widdy in Waiting. Rightly or wrongly, she was perceived as a woman who craved the limelight in both her political life and extra curricular activities.

Yesterday, the BBC and the Express focused on comments Widdecombe made about not being given a peerage.  She described it as a "pretty pointed exclusion" saying that she would "be a liar if ... an exclusion that pointed didn't stab just a little bit".

Widdecombe was adamant however, about looking forward, rather than dwelling over rejection:

"If however he [Cameron] was expecting I'd sit lamenting on Dartmoor, then tough luck. He's had to watch me having the time of my life."

Although her criticism was subtle, Widdecombe made suggestion that some of the Coalition's commitments to wooing women were wrong, whilst recalling her own experience of entering Parliament. She had "got there on the same basis as the men, which a lot of women can't say now. I'd competed equally, and I'd prevailed", she said. Women are not competing equally now "if you've got positive discrimination, and shortlists reserved for women. They don't have to do what we had to do."

Widdecombe, who entered Parliament in Margaret Thatcher's final term, said that "neither Mrs Thatcher or I, would have any time for ... the sisterhood approach" when asked if there was a sisterly message between female MPs.

Perhaps Widdecombe's most defining political legacy, was her campaign against abortion. She denied it had hampered her politcal career, suggesting that Parliament was full of pro-lifers, and that her position was not that exceptional. On the issue of abortion, Widdecombe said:

"Everybody forgets there are two beings involved. There's the woman, and there's the child. And the only voice the child has is that of Parliament. It has no other voice. It cannot speak for itself. From the moment that that child is born, it has equal civil rights with the rest of us and I cannot see why a few months back it doesn't have equal civil rights."

Many have suggested that Widdecombe's battle against abortion has been due a strong sense of faith. She said that she would never "deny the influence of my faith on my decisions" with it being the "first and the primary influence". In the case of abortion however, Widdecombe said "pro-life wasn't the direct result of faith":

"It's not that I'm pro-life because I'm a Catholic, but that I'm a Catholic because I'm pro-life."

Although pro-life issues had brought Widdecombe into "contact with Catholicism" it was the Anglican Church's "tendency to compromise "on anything and everything" that had prompted her conversion. The "final straw" being the debate over women priests. 

The debate, she said was never about whether it was "theologically right" but about "If we don't do this we won't appeal to the modern world". Women priests, and homosexual Anglican vicars, were all to her "way of thinking, a no no." 

Inevitably, Widdecombe is constantly asked about her views on homosexuality more generally, as well as in the Church. Widdecombe said there are "a number of homosexuals in the Anglican church, there is a number of homosexuals in Parliament ... I don't wish to know. It's not an issue for me".  Clearly irked by Fern Britton's question, she said "people like you want to make it an issue".  Her issue, she said, was "the action which the Church teaches against. It doesn't ever teach that to be tempted, is wrong. It's what you do that actually counts."


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