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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Ann Widdecombe
Ann Widdecombe

Date of birth

4 October 1947

Political profile

Ann Widdecombe is one of the country's few political characters, widely recognised even by those who do not follow Parliament.

She was elected to the Commons in 1987, and served as a junior minister in the Departments of Social Security and Employment but came to public prominence when she was minister for prisons.

She later sealed her fame when she wrecked Michael Howard's leadership bid with her claim that he had 'something of the night' about him.

Miss Widdecombe joined William Hague's shadow cabinet in 1998 as shadow health secretary, and later shadow home secretary.

In those posts, she proved to be a powerful, straight talking Commons performer, as well as inheriting Michael Heseltine's role as conference darling with her barnstorming speeches, performed from memory.

She has strong views on moral issues and is a committed opponent of abortion and euthanasia.

The MP also converted to Catholicism in protest over Anglican ordination of women.

On some other issues, however, she is not the right wing dogmatist of popular imagination.

She favours a progressive approach to penal policy, favouring prison education, and is one of the strongest opponents of fox hunting anywhere in the Commons.

She wanted to stand for the Conservative leadership in 2001, but decided against it after detecting a lack of support among her fellow MPs, and chose to return to the backbenches.

Nonetheless, she again wielded her influence over the contest by making a bitter attack on "the little band of backbiters".

She has become something of a television personality, featured in a Louis Theroux documentary, and has continued her writing career after publishing a well reviewed novel, The Clematis Tree, in 2000.

Contact

Commons office: 020 7219 5091
Constituency office: 01622 769898
Email: nichollg@parliament.uk
Website: annwiddecombemp.com

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