It's not strictly politics but anything goes in Anne's stage show
Politicians are rarely known for their good humour but former MP Ann Widdecombe is not afraid to laugh at herself as she proved with her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.
And with her new stage show Strictly Ann - which will be coming to Stamford next month - she’s determined to make other people laugh.
“I don’t want people to think this show is some sort of party political broadcast. First and foremost it’s a night of comedy; its entertainment.”
“Ever since I signed up to do Strictly Come Dancing I’ve discovered how much I enjoy making people laugh,” the 71-year-old told the Mercury.
With an honesty so refreshing and perhaps rare in politicians these days, Ann is unafraid to be blunt and forthright in her views, something that has now earned her a fresh lease of life and income, with her speaker tours and appearances in panto and television.
The audience will once more enjoy a frankness and openness that has made Ann a ‘national living treasure’ - a title bestowed upon the former Conservative minister by a most unlikely source, The Guardian newspaper.
Ann was born in Bath and enjoyed an early family life in Singapore, with her MOD civil servant dad James and mum Noreen, where she went to naval school and then convent school in Bath.
Ann studied Latin at Birmingham University and then Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, where she lived next door to Mary Archer, wife of Jeffrey Archer and former minister Edwina Currie.
After working in administration and as a councillor in Surrey, Ann was elected MP for Maidstone in 1987.
After the demise of Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1990, Ann was minister in three departments of John Major’s government. She will offer an insight into that, as well as life in the shadow cabinet after Tony Blair swept into Downing Street.
During her run of 30 shows across the country, Ann is happy to talk about her autobiography, which she will be signing, including the roots of her conversion to Catholicism in 1993, or her deeply held views on abortion and gay marriage.
And of course Strictly Come Dancing is sure to come up. Ann was approached to do the show in 2010, very soon after stepping down as an MP after 23 years. She saw it as a chance to do something different, changing the course of her life and enjoying it ever since.
Surviving until week 10 of the show, Ann became good friends with her dance partner Anton Du Beke, as well as the show’s pantomime baddie Craig Revel Horwood, teaming up with them again in the 2018 Strictly Christmas Special.
Far from a retirement spent writing and walking her dogs at home in Dartmouth, Ann has appeared in Have I Got News For You, Big Brother, and even a comedy role at London’s Royal Opera House.
More stage work has followed with Ann taking to the panto circuit; this year playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill.
Ann has also become an author, writing The Clematis Tree, which became a best seller, as well as a series of books, both factual and fiction, as well as her own autobiography, Strictly Ann, which was published in 2012.
Ann loves panto and her speaker tours, but appears not to be missing Westminster, saying she cannot recall a time when both main parties were in such a mess.
Ann supports Brexit and believes the country has nothing to fear about a ‘no deal’ saying the ports of Dover and Calais are well-prepared to keep operational.
Ann has addressed Conservative functions in Grantham and Stamford, as well as attended other events in Stamford. She was last in town when Quentin Davies was MP and though she has briefly met Nick Boles, she does not know him.
“My view is very straight forward. The nation voted to leave. I have no respect for people who frustrate that in a number of ways. We need to go. If the EU thinks we are going to go without a deal, that will galvanise their members.
“They won’t be minded to come up with a deal if they think the Nick Boles of this world will seek to stop Brexit. As long they think Brexit can be stopped, which is what they would love. There is no incentive for them to get an agreement in place.”
But Ann says it is not for her to have a view on whether the MP should be deselected.
Instead, she will give a talk of 50 minutes or so looking at her life, her political career and what came afterwards. Then, after a short break, will follow a further 50 minutes of Q&As from the audience, with the subject matter down to them, “however frivolous.”.
But the nature of the tour, with her due to appear in Henley-on-Thames the next day, means Ann rarely sees anything of the places she visits.
“I doubt I will see much of Stamford. I once went to a conference in Geneva. I said to my civil servants ‘Isn’t there a lake here?’
“You go somewhere. You are dropped by the door and picked up by the door. After the show, I shall be asleep in the back of the car.”
n Ann will be at Stamford Corn Exchange on February 19. For tickets visit www.stamfordcornexchange.co.uk or call the box office on 01780 766455.