Who is Ann Widdecombe?
Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister, is standing in Plymouth, Sutton and Davenport for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and is one of the party’s most high profile figures.
Despite remaking her image in recent years through her appearances on reality TV shows, Widdecombe has a long history of homophobic and sexist remarks that jar with Farage’s claims that his party is “intolerant of intolerance”. Indeed, embracing the dangerous and divisive politics of her new vehicle, in the first Brexit Party speech in the European Parliament Widdecombe made a risible comparison of Britain’s departure from the EU to the emancipation of slaves.
Below we run down Widdecombe’s track record.
- In June 2019, she told SkyNews that science might “produce an answer” to being gay. Farage refused to condemn these comments.
- In her 23 years as an MP, she consistently voted against expanding LGBT+ rights.
- She claimed in 1999 that “I do not think that [homosexuality] can be promoted as an equally valid lifestyle to marriage, but I would say the same about irregular heterosexual arrangements”.
- In 2018, on Celebrity Big Brother, she claimed that the prospect of a romance between Shane Janek (AKA Courtney Act) and Andrew Brady “disgusting”. Whilst hugging Brady, Janek said “You might not respect our marriage Ann, but you have to recognise our love!”, to which she replied “Don’t be disgusting”.
- In a 2013 interview, in reference to gay marriage, Widdecombe said: “I do not care tuppence what consenting adults do. It’s not my business […] What I do say is that the state must have a preferred model, and the model that has served us throughout the millennia is marriage – a man and a woman in a union that is generally open to procreation. Marriage isn’t about two people; it is the basis for the family. That’s why it’s unique, and therefore I think society can say we’re keeping marriage for a man and a woman”.
- She made remarks about gay conversion therapy in a 2012 article for The Express titled “Helping those who aren’t glad to be gay”, claiming: “Almost anybody can get help for anything from psychotherapists in this country except apparently gays who do not want to be gay”. She went on to write that “the unhappy homosexual should, according to gay activists, be denied any chance whatever to investigate any possibility of seeing if he can be helped to become heterosexual”.
- In her book Strictly Ann: The Autobiography, Widdecombe writes:
“The wild decade which was the sixties had fizzled out and taken with it much of its optimism, while its legacy of permissiveness had yet to turn into moral anarchy in what remained largely a socially conservative country. Divorce was easier but still not lightly sought, abortion available but widely frowned upon, homosexual acts legal but in the closet, pre-marital sex widespread but without the wholesale promsicuity which was to come. The family unit was still regarded as the bedrock of society but children were less shielded from adult strife, class divisions were loosening but still observable […] the F word, ten years after the Lady Chatterley trial, was not yet encountered on a daily basis. Nor any longer was the N word, now largely abandoned despite growing alarm at growing racial diversity.”
- She also writes in her book:
“I have never understood why supposedly intelligent interviewers express surprise that I have gay male friends. As I point out, if I chose my friends on the basis that I must first agree with all their views and choices then I would have to exclude not only homosexuals but all those who are divorced, living in sin, having children out of wedlock, having abortions (that one is quite difficult), known to have taken drugs, hilding strong left-wing views and certainly unbelievers […] Yes, I do oppose gay marriage but so do plenty of gays because it will give not one extra right to homosexuals which they do not have with civil partnerships but will take away from heterosexuals the right in law to be called husband and wife.”
- In an interview in The Telegraph, she was asked if she would attend the wedding of her friend Craig Revel Horwood if he ever married his boyfriend. She reportedly scowled and replied: “I always follow my conscience. Most of my friends would not put me in that position”.
- In 2014, after a bakery in Belfast refused to bake a cake bearing the words “Support Gay Marriage”, and was subsequently taken to court, she wrote in The Express: “In a free country the baker should be able to refuse to take part in what is effectively PR for gay marriage in the knowledge that any customers who do not like that decision are free to buy their morning loaf elsewhere. But then it is a long time since Britain and freedom were synonymous.”
- In 2012 Widdecombe wrote in the Radio Times that binge drinkers should be publicly named and shamed, by being arrested and having their pictures published in newspapers. She particularly targets women, bemoaning that they “stagger along pavements in 6in heels, scantily clad, falling off the kerbs, to hail taxis in which they are sick”. She goes on to write:
“That leaves the law, which alone can bring back the concept of shame […] If the police carried out the occasional big blitz in the city centres on a Friday night, drafting in extra manpower and pursuing every single person who was drunk in A&E or incapable on the streets, then people going out specifically to get drunk would risk finding themselves in court on the Monday with their names and photographs in the papers. That might be a deterrent to the wilder stages of excess.”
- In a 2018 interview on This Morning, she claimed that the #MeToo movement has “given rise to a lot of very trivial whinging” and called the gender pay gap “very largely a myth”. She also claimed that the playing field is tilted “heavily towards” women.
- She also claimed on Russia Today in 2017, during the scandal around Michael Fallon MP’s inappropriate behaviour towards a journalist, that “I can’t believe that women are being so wimpish these days, wallowing in self-pity, expecting the men always to protect us”.
- She claimed on Celebrity Big Brother in 2018 that the victims of Harvey Weinstein, who has faced numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assualt, “had a choice”. She said “That’s on them. That was down to them. They had a choice”.
- She backed the shackling of pregnant female prisoners receiving care, whilst prisons minister in 1996. She said: “Some MPs may like to think that a pregnant woman would not or could not escape. Unfortunately this is not true… The fact is that hospitals are not secure places in which to keep prisoners, and since 1990, 20 women have escaped from hospital”.
- She told the New Statesman in 2012 that she left the Church of England in 1993, in part due to her objection of women in the priesthood. She claimed::
“I left the Church of England because there was a huge bundle of straw. The ordination of women was the last straw, but it was only one of many. For years I had been disillusioned by the Church of England’s compromising on everything. The Catholic Church doesn’t care if something is unpopular. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned if it’s true it’s true, and if it’s false it’s false. The issue over women priests was not only that I think it’s theologically impossible to ordain women, it was the nature of the debate that was the damaging thing, because instead of the debate being “is this theologically possible?” the debate was “If we don’t do this we don’t be acceptable to the outside world”. To me, that was an abdication of the Church’s role, which is to lead, not to follow.”
- Widdecombe is a longstanding oponent of abortion, tellling the BBC in 1999 that “Abortion is not just a religious belief. Some of my best work against abortion was done when I was an agnostic. It is not [a] moral issue – if I come up and kill you, you do not say it’s a moral, individual issue. We are talking about taking life in the womb”.
- She told The Telegraph in 2014 that she “happen[s] to think it’s a woman’s job” to bring up children.
- HOPE not hate revealed that Widdecombe has appeared on three separate occassions on the Richie Allen Show, a radio broadcast affiliated with conspiracy theorist David Icke that serves as an online platform for antisemitic conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers. Allen has also himself questioned the numbers of Jews that died in the Holocaust. Other guests on the episodes featuring Widdecombe include Kevin Barrett, an antisemite and 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theorist.
- The Jewish Chronicle has reported that on 9 August she also appeared on Bristol Community FM’s Politics Show, hosted by Tony Gosling. UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) have alleged that his show is “filled with conspiracy theories, extremism, racism and propaganda”. UKLFI claimed that Gosling had suggested that MI5 and the Rothschild family had carried out the Manchester Arena bombing. The show was cleared by Ofcom in March 2019.
- Widdecombe has long supported hanging. In The Guardian she argues that there is “a compelling moral case for the availability of a death penalty”, and that it “saves innocent lives”.
- According to DeSmog, Widdecombe was one of just five MPs to oppose the 2008 Climate Change Act. In 2009 she told the Express “There is no climate change, hasn’t anybody looked out of their window recently?”