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Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning Hardcover – 1 Oct 2000
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Top customer reviews
I see that her background is similar to several people (all men, though!) whom I have met over the years: religious with a High Anglican or Roman Catholic background, socially very rigid, rather blinkered, but with a "common-sense" attitude that sometimes becomes totally loopy!
The book does show how her personal idiosyncracies led to her making inhumane decisions in office, placing an almost Victorian "workhouse" mentality and blame on the poor, the disabled etc, as well as insisting on women prisoners being shackled up to and even as they gave birth. Her defence of this policy, that more women escaped in hospital than men prisoners did, is no defence really at all. Most women prisoners are in for non-violent offences and the chance of a woman escaping soon after or (!) before giving birth is not likely to be large, surely? At times, Widdecombe shows, despite her modest origins and famously "realistic" or "down to earth" attitudes, a lack of understanding which is simply incredible in its arrant silliness. She has never been really short of money, never been homeless, never been in discomfort (except at Bath Convent during her teen years), never had a boyfriend really, never had a husband or child and never had to struggle anything like as much as many she criticizes and "advises".
The book goes into the media storm over whether she was anti-Semitic (she having been accepted into the Roman Catholic Church from an Anglican background). We read that she was in the Parliamentary Friends of Israel group before (?) waking up. She had Jewish friends such as the later "Labour" MP Barbara Roche (nee Margolis); and most of the Conservatives mentioned in this book are Jewish, such as Michael Howard (Horowitz), Edwina Currie, the Oppenheim mother and son pair (a nice little family earner, even before the MP salary-expenses scam reached its apogee under the "government" of The Party Formerly Known As Labour). Also, many not Jewish but totally pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, such as Alan Duncan (former employee of the wanted fraudster Marc Rich) and Michael Ancram. And, of course, Mrs. Thatcher. Et al
In the end, I found the book quite interesting but a little shallow, arguably. It went into her better side (as I believe): anti-abortion at a time when the scientific evidence showing the sheer murderous cruelty of it was not as detailed as it now is; love for cats too. I saw nothing about her opposition to hunting, though. It may be that that came to the fore after this book came out in 2000.
A good read on the whole.
We also learn that Anne's faith went from a strong evangelical one to a time of seeming agnosticism. Then after rediscovery of faith she was increasingly critical ot the lack of a clear witness from the Church of England. When the general Synod went for the ordination of women it was too much for Anne. She left Anglicanism and soon became Roman Catholic. It was an ecclesiastical U trn which one could not envisage her doing politically.
Here we have a strong, warm hearted woman who is fulfilled in her singleness. She shows you an be a Christian politician but inevitably it will involve some compromises you will make and others you will not. Climbing to the top of the pole is not the aim.
A fascinating study of a remarkable woman, surely the only public figure who is proud of virginity.
As an avid reader of political biography, this is most certainly one of the best I have read for a long time, and it helps those of us opposed to many of her policies, understand her.
I would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand the fiersome Shadow Home Secretary!
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