Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ann Widdecombe Announces Retirement

The Grand Dame of Tory politics Ann Widdecombe has announced she will not be contesting her Maidstone & the Weald seat at the next election. The news was given to the Press Association tonight. She had been expected to make the announcement at her 60th birthday bash at the House of Commons last Thursday, but because of the speculation about an early election she held back.

Andrew Pierce wrote a wonderful piece about Ann in the Telegraph yesterday. She is such a character and the House of Commons will be much poorer for her absence. As some of you may know, she and I do a theatre show called AN AUDIENCE WITH ANN WIDDECOMBE, which we take to provincial theatres. We've done about 40 so far, I think. They always get good audiences and she's one of the few politicians who could do this. She's a politician of whom people often say: "I may not agree with her but at least she believes what she says".

I think it is fair to say that we will all miss her. Don't you think she'd look great in Ermine?


Anonymous said...

Are you going for her seat, Iain?

verity said...

Oh, she'd look wonderful in ermine, and such well-deserved ermine at that!

Chris Paul said...

Good luck with the succession Iain.

ak23566 said...

Given her view on animal welfare - I suspect she would demand faux-ermine.

PS - any candidates who miraculously find themselves in North Kent with an hour or two to spare before the train departs for victoria - you are very welcome to help with our next newsletter delivery in neighbouring Chatham & Aylesford.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Another individual bites the dust.

It's a shame we have to fall for the unimaginative fad for gAy lists and wimmin lists and ethnic lists when really, we should be looking out for intellectuals and people of integrity, from any background, who simply tell it as they see it.

Ann Widdecombe has been an antidote to pomposity, spin and that lack of intellectual rigour so prevalent in other MPs. She has always come across as likeable and witty. It's a shame she will always be remembered for one little epithet because I am sure there are many others just as clever and just as chillingly accurate.

She deserves our thanks for her service as an MP and her refreshing contribution to publice life.

Diablo said...

Oh, come on, Chris! Why don't you put yourself forward? You know you want to take what you always call "Iain's seat".

(NB: I don't mean this to sound homophobic or homopliliac - is that a word?)

verity said...

WW - Absolutely! I hope she stays in politics, one way or another. She's a hero.

Daily Referendum said...

That's a real shame. However I do hope she can spend more time making documentaries on the state of Britain. She has an honesty that enables her to genuinely care about social breakdown.

Her programmes have a knack of raising public awareness and I hope she continues to make them.

I bet she's also a good laugh on a night out.


Yes. And will anybody have the moral fibre to oppose Blair's taking ermine?

Elby the Beserk said...

Remind me - this paragon of virtue. Just before you get all misty-eyed over here. She the one who ordered pregnant prisoners to be shackled to their beds when they went to hospital? Just like some third world dictator might do?

Some makeover.

Or did I get that wrong?

Anonymous said...

She deeply hated Michael Portillo on a personal level, so campaigned vigorously against him in the 2001 Tory leadership election stage where he lost by a single vote. If he'd won, he'd have beaten Clarke, become leader and almost certainly wouldn't have blindly and sycophantically supported the Bush/Blair rush to war in the way IDS did. How different history might have been if it weren't for that petty rivalry, lives might have not needlessly been lost, and the last election might have turned out differently

Sabretache said...

"I think it fair to say we will all miss her"

Wrong. A lot of us will say "Good Riddance - One less 'authoritarian-with-a-nasty-streak' to try and unseat at the next election".

She may well have 'believed what she said' - but the sheer venom of her attacks on the hunting community and her demonising 'belief' about what goes on in OUR heads, says all that needs saying about what goes on in hers. Similar to the psychological mechanisms that led to witch-burning, Gay-bashing, and other fearful, self-righteous outrages in times past in fact.

ken from glos said...

Strong willed and always spoke her mind.I for one, will miss her.

May she have a long and happy retirement.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with her over foxhunting and over religion but she is worth 100 Blears/Hodges/Harmans/Hewitts/Jowells and all the rest of the tawdry crew of Labour women MPs. She will be a loss to the HoC. Could we swop the loss and eject that creep Gummer?
Glyn H

James Bagnall said...

Thank God another voice for small-minded provincial bigotry is removed from the Commons. Shame it was her decision.

That kind of politics, wrongly sold as 'common sense', but actually feeding on base fears and perpetuating some extinct idea of class-bound, imperial arrogance.

I hope she retires from public life, I find her offensive, which I'm sure is what she, and you, admire about her.

Ben Sherreard said...

Are you bringing the show to the Hazlitt in Maidstone?

Chuck Unsworth said...

Careful Iain. I can think of several other 'Grandes Dames' in British politics - not all of them female.

But I'll be sorry to see her go. She was a hardworking 'character', not afraid of expressing her views, and we have far too few like her.

Iain Dale said...

Elby, yes, you did get that wrong, and she has a legal letter on file with newspapers who from time to time repeat that allegation.

Philipa said...

I think she'd look fabulous in ermine.

Man in a Shed said...

When you see her next Iain remind her how much she is admired and indeed loved by many people in this country.

She has spoken up, some times with great courage, for a view point that has often lacked a spokesperson.

Many normal people (non-political) would say the trust the likes of Anne. The list of MPs of whom the same could be said of is not long.

Anonymous said...

"Don't you think she'd look great in Ermine?"

Baroness Widdecombe of the Weald. But would she get a discount off the going rate?

camera obscura said...

Good luck Ann. Enjoy a happy retirement.

On another note, are rumours true that the press pack have been nobbled and will give Bottler an easy ride at today's monthly press conference?

It seems that Bottler and his minions have been on the phones all night offering sweeteners.

Are we about to witness yet another disgaraceful episode of spin and manipulation?

night of the long knives? said...

Bon voyage Ann!! Best wishes!!

Today's Scotsman newspaper front page is speculating on the fate of Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, and Douglas Alexander.

Will one or more be sacked for the recent farce? (which, of course, is all the responsibility of Brown himelf as we all know)

Paul Linford said...

Bearing in mind what has just happened to Gordon....perhaps you should make an early statement on the succession Iain before the speculation gets out of hand ;-)?

Anonymous said...

Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone & The Weald).

You may have forgotten she voted for the modified FOI act or are we in a new era where all are forgiven,sorry not by me,one less.

Anonymous said...

And what will she be remembered for? Michael Howard and his something of the night. And that's it.

With each passing day under this government her remark is looking more and more idiotic.

backwoodsman said...

A young farmer in her constituency summed up the reason why they wanted to get rid of her brilliantly .
" Round here, our favourite passtimes are smoking spliffs, shagging and fox hunting, and she's agin all three."

voice of reason said...

Whatever your personal views on the issue, Ann's stand against fox hunting was both principled and brave particularly considering the campaign of abuse and threats the hunt supporters subjected her to after she came out strongly against it.

There was no personal gain in it for her, she was only acting on conscience and you have to admire her for that wherever you stand on the hunting issue.

Politicians who act according to conscience are as rare as hen's teeth these days and should be applauded.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

It's not about what she was for or against. I disagree strongly with her over the fox-hunting issue and in some ways she is as mad as a carrot coloured cardigan, but she is sincere and holds to her own point of view. The fact that she is surrounded by pusilanimous nobodys with their heads up their leader's bum shows just what you will be missing.

Darell said...

Great seat to contest Iain, hope you go for it!

Neil Craig said...

One of the few politicians left willing to actually say things without checking if she was on message. I disagreed with a fair bit, particularly on religion but politics should be about expressing & debating real disagreements.

Rather than the Lords perhaps she might be more gainfully employed doing more spaghetti ads.

Adrian Yalland said...

She is slightly mad, but I do like the fact that (a) she has a mind, and (b) uses it. I admire her no-nonsense attitude towards work-shy types who bleed the rest of us dry.

However, I will never forgive her for what she did to hunting. She is authoritarian by nature, and although economically liberal (very welcome), she is a paradox because she believes that people should abide by moral codes which are not individual, but apply to everyone!

Did you ever ask her if gay people shouldn be discriminated against, or if their sexuality is 'sinful'?

I suspect you might not like the answers, however well you get on with her privately!

In short, she is a charactor, and I admire aspects of her charactor, but others I deeply resent!

verity said...

"Slightly mad" as diagnosed by you, Adrian Yelland?

Adrian Yalland said...

Ah Verity - I thought I heard the sound of your chains rattling!

Sorry - but I cannot be bothered to go into another long discussion on the point of Ms. Widdecombe, which we have done before ad naseaum! go on then, it's such fun!

Mad - yes, slightly, as in an eccentric, odd, slightly un-hinged, not overly concerned what people think about you, out on a limb in a kind of 'welcome to my own personal view of the world' kind of way.

This IS USUALLY the kind of behaviour I welcome and encourage. But only in easy going people who don't feel the need to inflict their view of the world on you.

Sadly, she isn't one of them. She is an absolutist - she is absolutely rigt on every issue, and if you disagree with her, you are absolutely wrong.

In anyone else, this unatractive trait would be called arrogance! But because its Widdy, we think it's endearing (apparently).

For every unquestionning admirer the lady has, there are equal numbers of people who feel that she is at least slightly wrong on certian issues, or in some cases, very wrong on most issues!

I think she has an overly authoritarian and warped view of the world on certian key issues, despite agreeing with her on others.

But hey, it's a free country (or used to be until people like AW started banning things).

As for 'looking wonderful in Ermine' - she'd probably refuse to wear it, as it comes from lovely fluffy animals doesn't it!

And as Forst Gump said "thats all I have to say about that"!

er....your turn!

Adrian Yalland said...

Voice of Reason - you're talking rot I am afriad. She didn't come under abuse and threats at all - and you'd be hard pressed to make that one stand up in court.

She was lobbied through the usual channels, and invited to meetings - which given that she was trying to make people unemployed and deny farmers choice over how they run their farms was pretty restraned I think.

The furthest the brave men and women who stood up for rural liberties and livelihood ever went to was wondering around outside the House of Commons with a lifesize sut-out of the lady in question smoking a spliff (this was just as she went blonde I seem to recall). I know this, cos there was once a picture of a man who looks remarably like me on the front page of the Daily Telegraph with said full size cut out!

So...please be careful what you say unless you can prove it.

TaxCutter said...

Most MPs could learn many tricks from Ann about how to be a Constituency MP who gets results time after time. An absolute credit to my hometown of Maidstone.

And at times a very effective destroyer of her opponents!

verity said...

Adrian Yelland - You write that Ms Widdecombe is "slightly mad". Have you ever written that Gordon Brown is slightly mad, which he unquestionably is? Have you ever written that any male politician is "slightly mad"?

It is this patronising attitude to her because she is a woman, and because she has sailed the sea of life as her own navigator, without a man to back her up, that men devise patronising descriptions of her. It is as though the fact that she hasn't married somehow counts as a strike against her.

We don't know her private life and it is not our business. She is an effective politician.

Yes, she's an absolutist, meaning she is an individual of strong conviction. Since when is that a character defect?

"But hey, it's a free country (or used to be until people like AW started banning things)."

No, it used to be a free country before the One Worlder thought fascists embarked on a gigantic brainwashing excercise and slid the right of freedom of speech out from under the previously free British. Ann Widdombe never had the power to "ban things". She only had the power to make a case in a public forum. Blair and his cohorts changed ancient English law and changed the nature of those charged with enforcing the law without resorting to a public forum.

If Widdecombe insisted on artificial ermine, that would be her right. Why the sneering tone?

As for Forrest Gump, I wouldn't understand the reference. I don't know anyone who went to see the movie.

Anonymous said...

I exect you'll be able to see lots of her pasta adverts, whether she's in faux-ermine or not.

She was quite good fun, never really achieved much and was far too censorious ever to be let loose in the home office for real.

Adrian Yalland said...


Please - this has nothing to do with Anne Widdecombe's sex. Attack the argument, not the person Verity!

I am a massive advocate of more women in politics, as you well know because you have had numerous conversations with me over this issue too. Is your memory fading?

Patronising? I don't think so. Did you actually read my post - you know the bits where I said positive things about AW?

As for her non-marriage, utterly irrelevant and I don't know why you mentioned it, because I sure as hell didn't!

As for being an absolutist, and why it is a charactor defect (which I never said it is, but I do happen to believe it is), well, because an absolutist perspective prevents you from taking a reasoned position, because it prevents one from asking 'is there anything in what I am hearing true', because absolutists (and fundamentalists) think they are utterly right and cannot be wrong, therefore do not need to consider the opinions of others, because it closes down debate, because it is 'illiberal' and because when absolutists get in power, they tend to destroy liberties of those they disagree with!

Conviction - yes. Absolutism - dangerous!

As for Gordon Brown - why birng him into this? I have spent the last 15 years attacking him and Blair and all that shabby cabal who have taken over the UK and made me a foriegner in my own country!

But for the record, I don't believe he is slightly mad at all (at least not in the 'eccentric' way in which I regard AW). I believe he is someone who possibly has very real psychological issues - as was helpfully pointed out by those who worked with him for over a decade. In other words, I think he might actually be be 'really mad'!