After a very successful September meeting Okehampton u3a are pleased to be hosting Ann Widdecombe to their next meeting on Tuesday 17 October.

Ann Widdecombe was born in 1947 in Bath, Somerset.  Her father worked for the Admiralty which meant her family was on the move for much of her childhood.  She spent time in Singapore where she was educated at the Royal Naval School and once her family returned to the UK she boarded at La Sainte Union Convent, Bath. She studied Latin at Birmingham University and Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University.  She was the secretary (1971) and Treasurer (1972) of The Oxford Union. Ann was also a committee member of Oxford University Conservative Association.  She worked in marketing at Unilever from 1973 to 1975 and was Senior Administrator at London University from 1975 to 1987.  After which she became a Member of Parliament where she held a variety of posts. She was Minister of State at the Department of Employment in 1994 before going on to become Minister of State at the Home Office in 1995 where she was responsible for prisons and immigration. 

From former Minister of State for Prisons to being thrown into solitary confinement for disobedience.  From being a self-confessed “grumpy old woman” to someone who in 2018 reminded the nation (in her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother) that she can be extremely funny there is not a lot Ann hasn’t done.

She has been an Agony aunt for The Guardian (who heralded her as a 'national living treasure'), a wicked Queen's lady-in-waiting in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, played the part of the flamboyant dowager in the 19th century comic opera La Fille du Regiment romp at the Royal Opera House and aged 63 Ann became the oldest contestant ever on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. 

Ann has a weekly column in the Daily Express, has written five novels, a detective story and her memoirs, Strictly Ann.  She has made documentaries on a wide range of subjects, including prostitution, “hoodies”, benefits culture, the Bible and more.

Perhaps a less known area of Ann’s life is the support she gives to a number of charities and organisations; She is Patron of Hi Kent, a charity offering sound support for deaf and hard of hearing people and is Vice President of the Leprosy Mission - a global Christian organisation leading the fight against leprosy.  She supports several charities including: The Longford Trust, which is about second chances for people who have been in prison; SPANA, created in 1923, SPANA is an international working animal charity providing support from emergency care and aid to free veterinary services and Aid to the Church in Need, a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church, supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.

As she once said on The Graham Norton Show, “you only get one shot at life,” and Ann is certainly making the most of hers!

Liked or disliked Ann Widdecombe is known for so many things apart from her career in politics so, if you would like to know more about this national living treasure why not come along to our meeting on 17th October and hear the lady herself talk about her “Life and Times”.  It promises to be a light-hearted account of her very varied career – first of all in Westminster and then her experiences on Strictly Come Dancing and her other activities since she left Parliament.  There will be an opportunity at the end of the meeting to purchase signed copies of Ann’s books for yourself or a gift for someone else.