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Ann Widdecombe- Life, Work and Faith

Published Monday 19th of May 2014 10:19:45 AM

The Right Honorable Ann Widdecombe, DSG was the special guest speaker at the latest instalment in the St Mary's Mary Ward Lecture Series. Discussing her life, work and faith, Ann delighted students, staff and members of the public with her witty but sincere views on politics, gender equality and Strictly Come Dancing, whilst maintaining that everyone should be proud of their personal faith.

Often referred to as the 'darling of our nation' Ann retired from politics in 2010, when she went on to be a wonderful contender in the TV series Strictly Come Dancing. She has also become a very successful writer and author. Born into an Anglican family, Ann's uncle, brother and nephew are all vicars, and after a period of agnosticism, Ann made the transition to Catholicism. As a young girl, she was sent to a convent school in Bath, where she was a boarder and has always felt that if you are driven by faith, you should say so.

Ann began her talk by posing the question, is it necessary to have faith in political life? She explained that yes, it was, otherwise government becomes entirely godless. She discussed the fact that politics is built almost entirely on the art of compromise and that we must always ask ourselves not what do we want to achieve, but what can we achieve? She went on to say that the issue facing a Christian in politics is the constant challenge of knowing what you can do and what you can't do.

After touching briefly on her anti-abortion views, with regard to which she is a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Ann opened up the floor, welcoming questions of any topic, from Strictly to the Ukraine.

Did you feel hindered by being a woman in Parliament?
No I didn't, do not go out there thinking that the odds are stacked against you because you're a woman. All of you will grow up taking for granted equality in law. I went into Parliament expecting to be treated the same way as the men and I was. Don't go looking for discrimination and confrontation because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Who is your hero?
I have two - Wilberforce and Winston Churchill, but both for very much the same reason; neither of them ever gave up.

Does the government have Christian values?
There are a lot of people in government who are active Christians. Our current government is quite influenced by Christianity.

What are your reasons for wanting the re-introduction of the death penalty?
I am not interested in the death penalty as retribution, but we must ask whether or not it works as a deterrent. I know that the death penalty won't come back. When we did have the death penalty, the law said that if there was a group of people involved in an armed robbery and only one of those people used a firearm, then everyone in that group was considered guilty of murder, not just the one who fired the shot. I would argue that the death penalty did save lives.

Do you think that to oppose abortion and support the death penalty is a contradiction?
Not at all. I am prepared to take life if it saves lives.

How was Strictly Come Dancing?
Strictly was fantastic and so was Anton du Beke. I am very selective about the television that I agree to, for example I said no to I'm a Celebrity. I said yes to Graham Norton and I said no to Jonathan Ross. I turned Strictly down several times between 2004 and 2009, but when I retired in 2010 I felt that I could agree to do it, because I didn't owe any time or dignity to anyone. On the very first day of training, Anton told me that it would be better if my feet mostly didn't touch the floor, so we had flying, dragging and had me standing still with him dancing around me.

Do you think PMs Question Time is worthwhile?
No, it has turned into a circus. It is basically a weekly piece of pantomime and I think that it is worth asking how it got to that stage. There was a point when the whips all got involved and turned the whole thing into a competition.

Ann's closing words to St Mary's were to say that one of the greatest survival skills is to know when the past is the past and to be sceptical is not to deny. She said that she enjoyed her visit and thought that we were a pretty good school.

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