Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Widdecombe sideswipe at Tory hopefuls
Ann Widdecombe: Insists she would be loyal whatever her personal views
By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder
Speaking to BBC News Online ahead of Mr Portillo's much-anticipated appearance at a fringe meeting in Blackpool, she said she would serve under any elected Tory prime minister whether or not she believed the selection was "sensible".
Mr Portillo, who wants to be the Tory candidate in the forthcoming by-election in the safe Tory seat of Kensington and Chelsea, recently admitted to a homosexual past.
He is widely tipped as a future Tory leader and is seen as a potential threat to William Hague, but many believe his past sexuality may undermine his chances.
Ms Widdecombe, renowned for her strong views on morality, made her comments just moments after delivering a barnstorming, off-the-cuff, conference speech which revived speculation about her own leadership potential.
"I have always been loyal to people for whom I didn't vote for," she said.
She insisted she wanted to see the ex-defence secretary back in the Commons and insisted she would be happy to work alongside him.
"I think we have to look at the facts of life. I have spent most of my time in politics serving on committees either with people whose heterosexual practices I didn't approve of or whose homosexual practices I didn't approve of.
"I don't judge people by their private way of life even if I have got a view on the moral content. I don't judge people by that, I judge people by their competence and of course if they have been elected by the electorate it is not for me to say they shouldn't have been," she said.
"I take a view that we should promote the traditional family as the preferred social model. I have never suggested for one moment that we should persecute or outlaw other models merely that we promote the preferred model which should be the traditional family."
And she added: "London Tories have chosen on a democratic basis Lord Archer. He has interesting and imaginative policies for London and I will go out and campaign for those policies."
She said she did not vote in the contest because she recently moved from her Lambeth home and didn't get a ballot paper.
But, asked if she would have voted for the former Tory chairman, she said: "I can't say for whom I would have voted because, obviously didn't have to take the decision."
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