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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK


UK

Ann Widdecombe switches on



Ann Widdecombe, who once lumped television and sex as two things she did "very nicely without", has caved in on one count at least.

The Tory frontbencher, famed for her forthright views on maintaining high moral standards, has acquired herself a TV.

As political U-turns go, it ranks among the more unusual. She once told an interviewer: "I don't watch [television]. It's filth."

It was a stance she doggedly maintained until a few weeks ago, despite appearing on - and even hosting - TV programmes.


[ image: Miss Widdecombe has joined the channel-hopping masses]
Miss Widdecombe has joined the channel-hopping masses
"My mother has come to live with me and therefore, for the first time, we do have a television in the house," she told BBC One's Clive Anderson Talks Back show.

Politically, it may have been a necessary move. After all, Miss Widdecombe will now be better able to "bond" with the 96% of British people who watch television every week.

The last census, eight years ago, revealed 96.6% of British homes have a set, more than have a car, telephone, washing machine or central heating.

But given Miss Widdecombe's famously rigid moral code - she proclaimed her virginity at 50 - what will she tune in to?

Not much, if you sign up to the popular view that programmers are pushing more and more sex on to our screens.

Complaints up by half

Over the past 10 years, complaints to the Independent Television Commission about taste and decency have risen 50%.

Veteran television standards campaigner, Mary Whitehouse, congratulated Miss Widdecombe on her recent acquisition.


[ image: Mary Whitehouse's advice:
Mary Whitehouse's advice: "You can switch off"
But she warned her of the need for self-censorship, in the form of the "off" switch.

"I see very little that really offends me but that's because I'm selective with what I watch," Mrs Whitehouse told BBC News Online.

Miss Widdecombe is unlikely to be impressed with the top-rating programmes that draw millions of British viewers every week.

EastEnders, the nation's most watched programme, is likely to offend Miss Widdecombe, a strict Roman Catholic. She is anti-abortion, anti-divorce and anti-sex-before-marriage - all bread and butter topics to the BBC One soap.

Cookery turn-off

Top rating cookery shows such as Delia's How to Cook and Two Fat Ladies, which fetched a combined audience of more than five million viewers last week, are also unlikely to grab the self-confessed fan of beans-on-toast and take-away fish and chips.

Even her love of detective novels will probably not translate onto the box, with programmes such as BBC's The Cops taking a distinctively seedy look at police work.


[ image: Two Fat Ladies: The shadow home secretary is not a cookery fan]
Two Fat Ladies: The shadow home secretary is not a cookery fan
Equally, when it comes to channel-hopping, she is certain to leap over those marked "4" and "5". Denise Van Outen's Something for the Weekend? The scatological Eurotrash? The sex-obsessed Ally McBeal? The amply-bosomed Xena: Warrior Princess? You can almost hear the politician wince.

John Beyer, director of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, highlight two programmes: Channel 5's Sex and Shopping and Channel 4's Civilisation as particularly objectionable.

Films such as Caligula (Sunday C4) and Marriana's Temptations (Saturday C4), an erotic drama which allegedly features the Pope's niece, will fail to win Miss Widdecombe over.

However, if, after a long hard week in the Commons, she is determined to put up her feet and veg out, BBC News Online can recommend the traditional Sunday mix of religion and politics.

BBC One has the Heaven and Earth Show, On the Record and Songs of Praise. ITV offers the religious magazine Sunday Morning and the Jonathan Dimbleby show.

Other possibilities for the week are Newsnight, which surely will have won Widdecombe brownie points for its famed Michael Howard interview, or the nightly political analysis show Despatch Box.

Or she can always watch a repeat of her Clive Anderson performance on Monday night.



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