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Interview with Ann Widdecombe

Blog | By Louise Flind | Jul 01, 2024

Is there anything you can’t leave home without? My mobile phone and my eyebrow pencil.

Do you travel light?

No, I don’t. I always pack for every last contingency.

What’s your favourite destination?

The cruises to the Arctic, because you’ve got completely unspoiled scenery, and when you’re standing alone on deck at 3am, it’s still light.

What are your earliest childhood holiday memories? After we came back from being posted in Singapore [her father was a Ministry of Defence civil servant and she attended the Royal Naval School, Singapore], we visited relatives in Cornwall and Devon and one holiday we went to the Lake District.

What was Singapore like in the ’50s?

It was terrific. We all swam, sailed and water-skied. Everything was based on the water. I went to school only in the morning; afternoons, I went to Brownies – and swimming twice a week.

Why did you get into politics?

To fight socialism – because when I was growing up, it was the height of the Cold War, and there was a real contest for the future of the globe based on capitalism versus communism.

How did it happen?

I went to Oxford, I was a local councillor, then I was a candidate for Burnley in Lancashire, then for Plymouth Devonport against David Owen – I was 39andahalfbythetimeIgotin.

What did you think of Gyles Brandreth at Oxford? I didn’t know Gyles Brandreth at Oxford, but he has a lovely imagination and tells a completely false story which has made its way into my Wikipedia entry...

What do you think of the Oxford Union, which is 200 years old this year?

It’s a wonderful institution, one of the few bastions of genuinely free speech left.

What do you think of Michael Howard and his ‘Something of the night’ comment? I don’t think any differently from what I thought at the time.

Who was your favourite PM?

Obviously, I’m going to say Thatcher, but John Major was very badly underestimated.

What was your favourite post in the Government? I enjoyed pensions tremendously, because there were a lot of challenges about at the time, including the Maxwell case.

Why did you retire so early from politics?

I didn’t retire early. I was 62 and a half. I’d been there 23 years.

Do you now think Brexit was a success?

Yes, but I think the tragedy is that they haven’t used Brexit. We came out in order to be independent, instead of which Hunt and Sunak are shadowing the EU on everything.

What do you think of Rishi Sunak?

Ever since he spun the Irish agreement as a great triumph, I have not trusted him an inch.

What do you think of Boris?

What he lacked [later on] in Number 10 was Dominic Cummings, and I don’t like Cummings. When he went, there was no one to say, ‘Shut up, Boris. Don’t say anything until we’ve checked the facts.’

Will Labour win the next election?

If there were an election tomorrow morning, the answer is yes. But we’ve got the best part of two years.

Which TV appearances have you most enjoyed?

Strictly Come Dancing, and making documentaries.

Why did you become a Catholic?

I became a Catholic because I was totally disillusioned with the Church of England, which hadn’t a clue what it believed in, and was always trying to appeal to the outside world.

What do you think’s been the highlight of your career? WhenIgotoneofmy

constituents out of jail in Morocco. By the time his wife came to see me, he had been convicted and

sentenced, had lost his appeal and was facing nine

years in a Moroccan jail.

Do you lie on a beach?

My beach-lying days are well and truly over.

What about a daily routine?

When I’m doing Jeremy Vine, I’m up at six o’clock. At home, I’ll fetch the papers from the mat and go back to bed with a cup of coffee, and then not stir my big toe until 9.30.

What’s your favourite food?

I love roast lamb with mint sauce and redcurrant jelly, roast potatoes and veg.

What about languages?

I read Latin just about still. I started to pick up French as an MEP quite well, having loathed it at school.

What’s your biggest headache when travelling? American airports.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever slept while being away? In Kenya in 1989 in glamping tents, with animal noises all around.

What are your travelling tips?

Take medication with you preventatively. I always travel with antibiotics.

This interview was taken in 2023