High profile conservative MP to address conservatives abroad

The chairman of Conservatives Abroad, Peter Newey, returned from the annual party conference in Blackpool with a Christmas surprise for local members - Anne Widdecombe MP is to be the next guest speaker. Widdecombe will be arriving in Majorca on December 6 and addressing members and guests over dinner at the Club de Mar in Palma on Saturday, 8th, having met local committee members for an informal chat the day before. Newey said yesterday that while Widdecombe was most exited about the invitation to Majorca at the conference, it all depended on her busy diary. However, she has worked hard to fit Palma and the members of Conservatives Abroad in, joining the list of Conservative party heavy weights who have come to Majorca over the years. Ann Widdecombe is one of Britain's few political characters, widely recognised even by those who do not follow Parliament. She was elected to the Commons in 1987, and served as a junior minister in the Departments of Social Security and Employment but came to public prominence when she was minister for prisons. She later sealed her fame when she wrecked Michael Howard's leadership bid with her claim that he had 'something of the night' about him. Miss Widdecombe joined William Hague's shadow cabinet in 1998 as shadow health secretary, and later shadow home secretary. In those posts, she proved to be a powerful, straight talking Commons performer, as well as inheriting Michael Heseltine's role as conference darling with her barnstorming speeches, performed from memory. She has strong views on moral issues and is a committed opponent of abortion and euthanasia. The MP also converted to Catholicism in protest over Anglican ordination of women. On some other issues, however, she is not the right wing dogmatist of popular imagination. She favours a progressive approach to penal policy, favouring prison education, and is one of the strongest opponents of fox hunting anywhere in the Commons. She wanted to stand for the Conservative leadership in 2001, but decided against it after detecting a lack of support among her fellow MPs, and chose to return to the backbenches. Nonetheless, she again wielded her influence over the contest by making a bitter attack on ”the little band of backbiters”. She has become something of a television personality, featured in a Louis Theroux documentary, and has continued her writing career after publishing a well reviewed novel, The Clematis Tree, in 2000.

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