One genre of book that I quite enjoy reading is the political autobiography or biography. A lot of politicians are quite vain and not as bright as they think that they are, so there are often some unintentional revelations in their autobiographies. For example Matthew Parris some years ago wrote about holidaying in Italy with his friends at a place that they termed the ‘villa of shame’, enjoying the company of ‘boys who were always willing’ – Parris wrote this years before journos started circulating lists of names of people suspected of being involved in the Westminster Paedophile Ring to bloggers like me…
On holiday last week I took a stack of theory books – but for light entertainment I also took a copy of Ann Widdecombe’s autobiography, ‘Strictly Ann’. I thought that this might be an interesting read because a few years ago I came across Ann’s website, ‘The Widdyweb’, which fuelled my suspicions that she was quite mad. ‘The Widdyweb’ was a sort of Enid Blyton fantasy land in which Ann talked about her cottage which has lupins all the way up the path and the many cats that she has owned, including one called Mitten. Exploring ‘The Widdyweb’ enabled me to perhaps understand how Widdycombe managed to live on a different planet from the rest of us in which anyone who has the temerity to get divorced should be cast into the outer darkness. I recommended ‘The Widdyweb’ to my former PhD supervisor and he was sufficiently impressed by it’s content to speculate that it might be a spoof. It wasn’t, it was Ann’s own work. (‘The Widdyweb’ has had an overhaul since then and it now features donkeys as well as cats and a lot of photos of Ann herself.) So I expected to delve further into Ann’s fantasy world of lupins and cats called Mitten by reading ‘Strictly Ann’.
I had a surprise. Widdecombe has quite a deceitful streak. She is of course famous for being one of the politicians who was not disgraced in the expenses scandal – I think that she, Jeremy Corbyn and Frank Field were about the only MPs not claiming for everything possible, but I would have predicted that. I don’t share many of Widdecombe’s views, but I would not expect her to be fiddling her expenses or pilfering in any form. But Ann’s autobiography reveals a degree of low level cunning and hypocrisy that I honestly did not expect to find.
When I have heard Widdecombe contributing to discussions regarding politicians renumeration, she has always been someone who has argued that if politicians aren’t generously paid, ‘talented people’ will not go into politics. (She doesn’t use the same logic when she discusses appropriate salary levels for other public servants.) She very obviously considers herself an ‘able’ and ‘talented’ person. I knew that she was an Oxford graduate, so I presumed – particularly in the face of all this talk about ability and talent – that Widdecombe, like Cameron and a few other leading Tories who consider themselves a cut above the rest of us, had been academically very successful. Not so. Widdecombe was actually rejected by Oxford when she applied as a sixth former, although she made it very clear that she would have given her right arm to get in there. She did her first degree at Birmingham – which was her fifth choice of university. So a few other people said no to Ann as well as Oxford then. However, whilst at Birmingham, she had developed a desperation to enter politics and her preferred way of doing that wasn’t to become active in local government as a councillor, it was to somehow get involved with the Oxford Union – because Ann had got wind that was the route that the big names used. To do that she needed to be studying at Oxford – so she applied again to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at Oxford after she had graduated from Birmingham. Ann’s parents offered to fund the Oxford degree. Ah, the myth of the naturally talented woman who got where she did in life by hard graft begins to unravel – a large quantity of readily available parental dosh played a crucial part at an early stage…
To be fair to her though, there was a lot of hard graft involved as well. Not cleaning toilets, or stacking shelves, or even studying (she ended up with a Third) – the hard graft involved a great deal of toadying, networking and beavering away in the Oxford Union with other aspiring politicians. Ann really loved being part of the Oxford Union, she didn’t see it in terms of a bunch of immature over-privileged tossers playing games at all, she really got down to Business there. She became Secretary of the Oxford Union and was also active in the Federation of Conservative Students (whose later activities became so offensive that Tebbit had to intervene and I think that the organisation was dismantled). In Ann’s words ‘we were fuelled by ambition and a will to carve out success for ourselves’ and she ‘met and talked to a wide range of politicians, broadcasters and academics’. She waxes lyrical about meeting the likes of David Owen (they loved him so much that Dr Death received a ‘huge ovation’) and the place was so packed for Enoch Powell’s burfday that people were forced to sit on the windowsills.
After Oxford, Widdecombe beavered away for many years trying to get into Parliament before she finally succeeded. She landed a mind numbingly boring job after graduation with Unilever, but spent every waking moment planning her future political career. It was all highly strategic and centred around getting to know the right people. She joined the Bow Group because, as with the Oxford Union, she perceived that to be where her version of the beautiful people hung out: ‘I was just one of a very ambitious set of young professionals who yearned to get into Parliament’. Ann mentions that the Bow Group was actually a bit left wing for her liking, but it was where the influential people were….
Despite their dangerous socialist tendencies, Ann made some good mates among the Spartists in the Bow Group. Richard Barber, who interviewed her when she applied to join, became her solicitor and another member, Michael Stern, became her accountant. She began working on papers with the Bow Group with folk like Richard Luce and Edward Leigh. Those readers interested in the rumours swirling regarding the Westminster Paedophile Ring might be interested to note that some of the names being bandied around as suspects were/are members of the Bow Group. Not that Ann Widdecombe’s name has appeared on any of the documents that I’ve been sent.
Ann was also keen on the idea of another Tory organisation where those with influence hang out, the Carlton Club. She had a problem there though, because for years they wouldn’t admit women. (However, as soon as they did relent, Ann joined – she became the first woman to become a full member of the Carlton in 2008 and was the first woman to serve on their General Committee.)
Ann was desperately trying to get onto the candidates list at Conservative Central Office, but for some reason they didn’t seem too impressed with her. She mentions that a Lord Lothian gave her a reference. I presume that this was the father of Michael Ancram – Ann had campaigned for him and acted as his PA when Ancram was trying to get elected himself in the 1974 General Election. Ancram inherited his father’s title in 2004 and is now in the Lords. Ann was obviously quite impressed with the Ancram clan, there is much name dropping of all the aristos that she rubbed noses with when she was working hard to get Michael into Parliament. She states that after she returned from Ancram’s campaign she ‘spent the next 13 years focussed on the House of Commons’.
Despite the best efforts of pere Ancram, Ann continued to have difficulty finding her way onto the candidates list, but she persisted. She was interviewed by Marcus Fox but rejected – he wanted ‘councillors with dirty hands’. She was told by John Lacey, the Central Office Area Agent for the south east, that to be accepted onto the candidates list she needed a record and that ‘there was an absence of professional information’ about her. At one point she was simply given a bollocking and told that the party were getting fed up of smart arses who had joined bodies like the Oxford Union and the Bow Group in order to bag a seat in Parliament.
Ann eventually ended up on something called the deferred list, which seems to have meant that she could apply to be a candidate but that she would receive no help from Conservative Central Office. They certainly meant ‘no help’ as well – people on the deferred list weren’t even informed of forthcoming selections (Ann, I think that Central Office might have been trying to tell you something). Widdecombe had a solution to that though – she ingratiated herself to someone who worked at Central Office and got them to access the info for her.
This is where it became entertaining. Ann’s mole kept an eye open and told her of EVERY seat that arose – and Ann applied for all of them, and boasts of the ‘creativity’ she employed as she made up cock and bull stories regarding her ‘connections’ to the constituency and desperation to represent the folk who lived there. She also took care never to mention her involvement with the Bow Group at interviews, because she believed that the Bow Group was unpopular with constituency parties. Ann may have been very good at identifying people who could assist her up the career ladder but she certainly wasn’t very good at finding out about the constituencies upon whose doors she was hammering. Her research involved a visit to the local library a couple of days before her interview. The depths of Ann’s ignorance and her shameless ruthlessness is particularly evident from her account of being called for interview on Anglesey no less.
Ann travelled all the way up to Anglesey from her base in the south east for the selection. She manages to sum up Anglesey as ‘all sheep and Rio Tinto Zinc’. There are sheep on Anglesey but there are other things as well. What there is not on Anglesey is zinc. There is a place called Parys Mountain where copper was historically mined and there was an industrial plant called Anglesey Aluminium – which was owned by Rio Tinto. Aluminium is nothing to do with zinc, it is a different element with a different position in the Periodic Table. ‘Strictly Ann’ is a book littered with smug comments regarding the perceived ignorance of other people in terms of their lack of knowledge of Latin, Shakespeare and the Bible. Yet Ann does not know the difference between two metals – and she very obviously didn’t bother to find out. At the time that she went for that seat on Anglesey, Anglesey Aluminium was a huge employer, so presumably she would have been after their votes. But she couldn’t even be arsed to find out what they produced. Ann’s confusion probably arose from the history of Rio Tinto who owned Anglesey Aluminium – at some point in the dark ages, Rio Tinto had merged with another company that was involved with zinc. But not on Anglesey. Furthermore I would have thought that the name ‘Anglesey Aluminium’ contained a clue as to what was being produced.
But guess what – the selection panel didn’t care that they had a total ignoramus on their hands. They loved Ann and she loved them! Which is weird, because Widdecombe knew bugger all about Anglesey and obviously didn’t care that she knew bugger all, she doesn’t mention the issue of language which would have been very important on Anglesey, she doesn’t concern herself with the socio-economic problems that plagued the region at that time and she wasn’t even that interested in the sheep. But Anglesey really wanted her, they were biting her arm off. She ‘stayed with an officer of the association so was under scrutiny the whole time and the interview was a rip-roaring success’.
Now one passion of Ann’s that has been a life-long obsession really is her commitment to the anti-abortion cause. It seems to be the only thing that she is indeed committed to – it’s the one thing that she doesn’t lie about or keep under wraps if necessary. It also caused some people to see her as an unsuitable candidate – she was perceived by some to be uncompromising and dogmatic and by others as a one-policy candidate. She devotes much of her autobiography to accounts of her anti-abortion campaigning and the reasons for her strong feelings on this matter and gives details of some very deceitful tactics that she and other anti-abortion campaigners used in their attempts to force legislation regarding this issue through Parliament. I am wondering whether it was Widdecombe’s enthusiasm for outlawing abortion that made her so attractive to Anglesey.
My post ‘The BMA And It’s Ethics’ detailed how a co-ordinated effort by Top Doctors in north Wales made it impossible for women in that region to access NHS abortions until well into the 80s/90s – the region was notorious for this and the Top Doctors crowed about their success in preventing abortions being carried out legally on the NHS in north Wales. Where did the Top Doctors tend to live if they worked in north west Wales? Anglesey. They colonised the area between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris in particular – that area is next to the Menai Strait, it’s very pretty, it’s where the more expensive and luxurious properties are and it’s near the hospitals in Bangor. I am not exaggerating here – that stretch is literally full of Top Doctors, I used to live there myself and huge numbers of the people living in Llanfairpwll/Menai Bridge/Llandegfan/Beaumaris were Top Doctors – or academics. It was always the reason that was given for Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge performing so well academically – numerous children had mums and dads who were university lecturers or doctors. And if the residents of those villages weren’t Top Doctors, they were nurses or NHS managers or people who worked with the Top Doctors. They didn’t tend to live in Gwynedd because it was a bit wet and hilly there and the houses weren’t so grand – their colony was on Anglesey.
Widdecombe will absolutely not have kept her commitment to anti-abortion a secret during that selection. And I bet that the Anglesey Conservative Association contained a few Top Doctors or their associates who sounded the candidates out concerning their stance on abortion as well. They must have thought that Christmas had come when Widdecombe arrived – the Top Doctors of north Wales were getting very angry at the idea that they might be put under pressure to offer terminations and what would be more helpful to them than a local MP who would back them up all the way?
Sadly for Anglesey Conservatives though, it was a dream that was snatched away. Ann dropped them! A seat in Burnley had also come up and of course Ann had applied for that too (totally committed to Burnley as well!) and although Derek Laws, the Welsh Area agent, wanted Ann to withdraw from Burnley because Anglesey were so desperate to snare her, Conservative Central Office insisted that she follow procedure which meant keeping her name in the hat for Burnley and the Burnley election happened first. Anglesey seem to have been particularly miffed about this – Widdecombe’s book mentions that years later by which time she was in Parliament she bumped into someone from Anglesey and they asked her if she regretted letting them down. Ann herself has no regrets – it wasn’t a safe seat! She mentions of course that the candidate who was eventually selected for Anglesey was Keith Best and the seat was ‘lost’ from the Conservatives a few years later. She fails to mention that it was lost because Best was convicted of fraud and ended up in prison.
Ann wasn’t elected in Burnley and her search for a seat continued a while longer. Readers might well be wondering by now how Widdecombe was actually managing to sustain herself in the south east whilst spending so much time campaigning for the Tories, grovelling to influential people and indeed charging off around the UK in hot pursuit of a seat. It transpires that Ann had a very understanding employer. She got fed up of Unilever pretty quickly and took up a job as an administrator at the University of London. She wasn’t just on reception, she actually worked her way up to a very senior role in the University Court dept and ended up being responsible for the financial part of the project that merged the London medical schools ie. the merger between Guys and Tommy’s and University College and Middlesex. Ann Widdecombe will have been party to an awful lot of very interesting information in that role – and if she’d kept certain people happy she would have made some very influential friends. Which Ann seems to have been very good at doing anyway. One person who was very keen to help Ann further her career in the Conservative Party was her boss at London University, Peter Holwell.
Peter Holwell seems to have been a very useful boss to have – he allowed Ann an awful lot of time off to go campaigning (she doesn’t mention any obligation upon her to take this as unpaid leave) and she even mentions that she took her secretary from the University with her campaigning – the secretary played a full on role as well, answering letters, preparing canvassing returns etc. Did the authorities at London University know that two of their staff – a senior administrator and her secretary – were taking weeks off work in order to bag one of them a seat in Parliament? We are talking the 80s here, the Thatcher years, when universities were being berated for their wastefulness, their lack of productivity and were subjected to severe financial cuts.
But Peter Holwell didn’t just give Ann weeks off to fight elections and supply her with a secretary to do this. He seems to have participated in a great deal of subterfuge with Honest Ann. Readers of my vintage will remember that in 1982 the Tories became so vexed about the CND movement – in particular the women’s protests at Greenham – that they established a campaign in opposition to this which certainly had everyone rolling in the aisles: ‘Women and Families for Defence’, led by the dreadful Lady Olga Maitland, who doubled up as a gossip columnist for the Sunday Express. (Olga was as bad as Ann in terms of only bothering to get to know certain people. In one press interview she waxed lyrical about her love of dinner parties, but stressed that she only invited selected people ‘like Edward De Bono and his wife’. I won’t be receiving an invitation then.) Ann was involved with this campaign and was a key figure in running it – during her time at London University. She mentions that Peter Holwell was ‘keenly interested in my political activity and was a sympathiser’ – the preparations for the launch of ‘Women and Families for Defence’ were ‘carried out in secrecy’ and were referred to in London University as ‘the initiative’. Holwell was in on it all and all Ann had to do was ask for time off from the University for ‘the initiative’.
What exactly was going on in the senior ranks of the Court at London University in the 1980s?
Peter Holwell is still alive, although long retired. He’s been a busy bee though. He was listed as a Company Director for:
A.C.A. Ltd; Leeds Castle Foundation; Edge Foundation; Friends of the Courtauld Institute; Samuel Courtauld Trust; Setoncrest Ltd; Law 646 Ltd; Zoo Operations Ltd; Zoo Enterprises Ltd; Whipsnade Wild Animal Park; Zoo Restaurants Ltd.
Some of these organisations are well-known, some seem to be businesses connected to London University and some are frankly opaque and rather suspicious….
But to return to ‘the initiative’ which was so generously supported in complete secrecy by the upper echelons of London University. ‘Women and Families for Defence’ was always presented by the Tories as being a movement led by real women who wore nylons and were called Lady, rather than a bunch of screaming lesbians of doubtful sanity which of course were what made up the ranks of CND. Yet Ann tells us something else – although the initiative was supposedly led by Olga assisted by the likes of Angela Rumbold and Virginia Bottomley, Ann states clearly that it was all ‘initiated’ by a man called Michael Lingens, a Bow Group officer, who needed a ‘women’s group’ to make an ‘even bigger noise’ than the Greenham women. So who was this Michael Lingens who told the ladies what to do?
Michael Lingens was a Councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham 1982-86 and became Chairman of the Bow Group in 1984. These days he is described as a ‘corporate lawyer’. He is a partner in an organisation called CharlesRussellSpeechlys and is described on their website as being a man who ‘advises on corporate and transactional work for public and private companies, primarily in the healthcare sector’. Lingens has ‘worked with a number of the UK’s leading care home operators in recent years’. He is ‘responsible for the firm’s offices in continental Europe and Chairman of the International Committee which co-ordinates the firm’s international activities in general’.
So it sounds rather to me as though Michael Lingens these days is in the business of privatising the NHS. Which is certainly interesting – Ann’s job at London University (when she was actually at work to do it) involved overseeing the reconfiguration of some leading London hospitals/medical schools and in ‘Strictly Ann’, Ann explains that of course she’s committed to the NHS, but years after her adventures with Olga Maitland et al when she became Shadow Secretary for Health ‘a major plank of my policy was to introduce private sector money to the NHS’. Ann enjoyed the miracles of private medicine herself when she suffered a detached retina. She trotted along to Moorfields Hospital and consulted the surgeon Lyndon da Cruz expecting to hear the worst and told him that she did know that ‘lots of people go through life with the sight of only one eye’. She was delighted to be told that ‘but YOU won’t have to’. Ann recalls that ‘they were the most beautiful words I had heard in many years’ and observed ‘how blessed I am to have BUPA cover’. I didn’t realise that BUPA had a spiritual aspect to it, but at least Ann didn’t have to go blind like the rest of us who don’t have BUPA cover are obviously expected to. ‘Strictly Ann’ is full of references to the Good Book and indeed quotes from the Good Book but Ann really is no John Bell.
The corporate lawyer who is gobbling up the NHS is not the only person who assisted Ann, Olga et al with the initiative. They were, explains Ann, ‘egged on’ by Julian Lewis, who had been at Oxford with her. Ann admiringly explains how on one occasion a few years later, Julian ‘actually managed to string pro-defence banners across Whitehall under which CND had to march on it’s route to Trafalgar Square’. Julian helped Ann with her maiden speech when she finally did succeed in getting into Parliament in 1987. The subject of Ann’s maiden speech was Trident.
So who’s Julian? He’s the Tory MP for New Forest East. In 1976 he received secret funding from the far-right organisation the Freedom Association to pose as a Labour Party moderate in an attempt to expose Militant Tendency entryism in the Labour Party. He is described as a ‘leading opponent of CND and other left-wing organisations throughout the 1980s’ and between 1981-85 he was the Research Director of the Coalition of Peace Through Security. In Parliament he actively pursues the retention and renewal of the UK Trident programme. Just to reassure everyone, in Sept 2010 he was appointed as a member of Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Committee.
So that’s who was pulling the strings of Ann and her mates. Funded without anyone’s knowledge by London University, as was Ann’s path into Parliament.
Ann did eventually manage to get elected in 1987, for Maidstone. Once more Peter Holwell did her a favour and allowed her to leave her job at London University without working out her notice. She mentions an early problem arising when she was newly elected – there was an ‘acute cash crisis’ at Maidstone Hospital, which was ‘very new and flagship’ and Honest Ann was called upon to manage the crisis (or perhaps the bad publicity?), which involved a series of discussions with the Health Authority Chair Anne-Marie Nelson, the hospital management, the Top Doctors, the Angels and the Minister Tony Newton. There were obviously very much more serious problems at that hospital than Ann admitted. Maidstone Hospital hit the media in 2007 as a result of a C diff outbreak, attributed to filthy conditions and overcrowding. In total, more than 1,150 patients became infected, 90 were estimated to have died as a result of infection and it was estimated that the infection contributed towards the deaths of another 240 patients. The Chief Exec was described as ‘blameless’ but was sacked nonetheless, with a severance payment of 250k. The Health Secretary at the time, Alan Johnson, intervened and the Dept of Health advised the Trust to withhold more than 2/3 of the payment. The case went to the Court of Appeal, the payment was restored and a judgement was issued that was highly critical of the Trust. Upon publication of the judgement the whole Trust Board resigned. So Ann didn’t manage to sort that little local difficulty out then, despite ‘Strictly Ann’ containing anecdotes about the machinations that she and her colleagues used to ensure that bad news NHS stories didn’t receive high profile coverage.
After all that toadying to actually get into the Commons, Ann very nearly came unstuck in 1992 when there was an attempt to deselect her by some members of her constituency association as a result of her anti-hunting stance. (Is it not ironic that it was this which nearly caused her to come to grief rather than the rest of the insanity and duplicity.) However, fellow anti-abortion campaigner Lib Dem David Alton was so mortified at the idea of Parliament without Doris that he came to her rescue. Alton theorised that to get Ann out of hot water, she needed the support of a high profile hunter and hey presto a letter from the Duke of Norfolk in support of Ann was sent to the constituency association. Ann was really chuffed when she found out that the Duke of Norfolk had written that he wished that he’d had her at his side when he was ‘fighting the Mau Mau’. I’m wondering if Doris has any idea of what was alleged to have happened in the fight against the Mau Mau uprising – the Mau Mau militants were notoriously terrifying and vicious, so the colonial forces did not hold back where retaliation was concerned. Mau Mau were flogged until death, roasted alive, sexually assaulted with a range of objects, set alight after having paraffin poured over them and castrated. Interrogation methods used by the colonial forces included slicing off ears, boring holes in ear-drums and pushing pins into fingernails. One can only wonder in what capacity the Duke of Norfolk imagined that Ann would have proved useful.
The Duke of Norfolk’s letter did the trick and Ann lived to fight another day.
In much the same way that it took Ann a very long time to actually get into Parliament, her progress once she was there was not what she had envisaged. As with the Chukas and the Yvettes and the Tristrams et al that have wrecked the Labour Party, doing a good job for her constituents as a useful backbench MP wasn’t enough for Ann – she knew that she was meant for better things. Like Norman Tebbit, Ann is someone who seethes at the idea that much of an MP’s role has now been ‘reduced’ to that of a ‘glorified social worker’. How they hate it when those sodding constituents keep turning up with their housing problems or their benefit concerns or their complaints about the NHS. As Tebbit used to stress ‘our job is to hold the executive to account’. Well that certainly is part of the job, but Tebs and Doris don’t seem to have worked out that the reason why MPs surgeries are now brimming over with desperate people about to lose the roof over their heads or with no income because their benefits have been stopped or who have nearly been killed at the hands of the NHS and no-one will even respond to their letters, is that since 1979 successive Gov’ts have set about dismantling the infrastructure of the UK and now nothing fucking works. Desperate people have nowhere else to turn but their MPs, particularly when the public services themselves break the law. Parliament is not the Oxford Union Ann, no matter how much that you wish it was. That was you playing with a load of other pretentious spoilt idiots – when you get elected you have things called constituents to answer to.
Although Doris did notice that no-one seemed very enthusiastic about promoting her, she did what she had done previously – she hassled a lot of influential people demanding answers as to why her talents were going unacknowledged. Unbelievably it worked and Doris began to get promoted.
Now one of the early positions that Doris achieved that interests me is that of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to Tony Newton. Doris describes that this involved a huge amount of work and that as the Parliamentary Under Secretary it was she who did the legwork – including handling all correspondence. Tony Newton was the Minister to whom Alison Taylor wrote in Feb 1988 describing the abuse of children in care in north Wales that was happening – including assaults that she had witnessed herself. Ann Widdecombe will have known about that letter. Furthermore by the time that she wrote to Tony Newton, Alison had already written to Margaret Thatcher. Tony Newton was Health Minister. This was pre-devolution, so the NHS in Wales was the responsibility of Westminster. By the time that Doris was the gofer for Newton, the authorities were aware of my allegations concerning the psychiatric services in north Wales as well.
But Doris also knew somebody who was directly involved in the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal – Peter Morrison, the MP for Chester, whom former Tory MPs now admit was known to be molesting under-aged boys and who was visiting children’s homes in north Wales. Doris mentions Morrison a number of times in her book – Doris knew him as Thatcher’s PPS and repeats a number of times that Morrison was giving Thatcher ‘bad advice’. It is fairly clear now that Thatcher’s administration were covering up what was happening in north Wales, including Peter Morrison’s activities. Ann doesn’t mention that, but she does make reference to another situation which she claims was covered up by everybody from ‘Tony Newton downwards’, that of the serious alcohol problem suffered by Nick Scott. She observes that no-one did him any favours concealing the fact that he was drunk and incapable and she is probably quite right. But I suspect that Doris knew that Tony Newton along with the Welsh Office were covering up something far worse than an alcoholic colleague – and who knows she might well have still been in contact with her old buddies the Top Doctors from Anglesey who had so wanted her as their MP, who were covering up exactly the same thing. By that time Keith Best had been elected for Anglesey – the Keith Best who was so uninterested and unhelpful when I went to see him about the wrongdoing of the Top Doctors. The Keith Best who had a role in the Welsh Office.
After her stint with Tony Newton, Doris was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for David Hunt at the Dept of Employment. The David Hunt who was Secretary of State for Wales – twice – and who covered up the wrongdoing in north Wales as well.
Doris’s autobiography makes it obvious that she was getting pretty pissed off with only being a mere Parliamentary Under Secretary and she was greatly pleased when she finally became a Minister of State in the Home Office. She was memorably Minister for Prisons under Home Secretary Michael Howard who maintained that ‘prison works’, as the prison numbers swelled with dispossessed people who were frequently mentally ill. Or in north Wales had complained about the psychiatric services or of having been molested in children’s homes. Doris waxes lyrical about the features of prisoners – that they are usually illiterate and innumerate, that they often have mental health problems, that they usually come from ‘broken families’. The one thing that she fails to mention is that a disproportionate number have grown up ‘in care’ – but I bet she knew it. Doris was a Minister in the Home Office at the time when Mary Wynch was chewed up and spat out, ruined, by the Home Office (see post ‘The Mary Wynch Case – Details’).
Doris was sufficiently attached to Tony Newton and David Hunt to mention how ‘upset’ she was when they lost their seats in 1997.
I find it very difficult to believe that Doris, whose whole modus operandi was predicated upon making friends with powerful people and helping ensure that things ran smoothly for them, had not heard an awful lot about the barrel of shite in north Wales that so many of those whom she was hobnobbing with were so deeply involved.
But even after Hunt and Newton had left the Commons, Doris found herself yet again close to someone else who played a major role in covering up the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal – she became Shadow Secretary for Health under William Hague. Whilst the cover-up that was the Waterhouse Inquiry was underway. Doris was a big fan of Hague and her explanation for his disastrous stint as Tory leader was that he simply arrived in that position too early in his career. Even in her account of her support for Hague as leader though there are indications of Doris’s underhand activities. By the time that Hague stood in the leadership race, Doris had of course fallen out with Michael Howard in a very big way and certainly did not want him becoming leader of the party – she did of course launch a very public attack on him in which she notoriously claimed that there was ‘something of the night’ about him and what with that coming from Honest Plain Speaking Ann, it killed off Howard’s 1997 leadership chance. Ann explains in her book how Hague was actually going to support Howard for leader in 1997 until she told James Arbuthnot – the principal Hague supporter – that she was going to launch a major attack on Howard. Hague subsequently reneged on his deal to support Howard. Ann wonders whether Arbuthnot told Hague that he was supporting ‘damaged goods’ – of course she has no idea whether Arbuthnot ever did tell him that, but she remarks that it would have been ‘strange’ if Hague’s ‘first lieutenant would not have told him what he had learned’. Of course it would Doris, that’s why you set the cat among the pigeons…
Doris also had cause to call on the help of yet another person whom I have named on this blog as helping to keep the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal out of the media as much as was possible – Amanda Platell (see post ‘Did Glenda Occupy A Key Role In Keeping It All Out Of The Media?’). In 1999, by which time Platell had her feet well under the table as Head of Press at Conservative Central Office, Peter Lilley made a speech which compromised one of Doris’s policies. An early draft of Lilley’s speech was leaked by a journalist – a journalist whom it was known was regularly briefed by Doris. Suspicion fell upon Doris and rumours flew – Doris was horrified that she had fallen under suspicion (I’m not sure why, if she was known to be briefing this journo on a regular basis it would seem logical to presume that she’d done so again). Fortunately for Doris, the helpful Amanda held a full investigation using some of her contacts that I mentioned in my previous post about her, two people were identified as being the source of the leak and were sacked. Doris remained – presumably to continue briefing journalists when she found it necessary.
Readers may remember that Doris fancied herself as Tory leader but never actually got that far. What is noticeable in Doris’s book is that she had felt that this was her destination and she takes it as a matter of fact that she’d have been an absolutely brilliant PM. Fortunately for the rest of us it never actually happened. However Doris does spend quite a lot of time telling us all how she would run the world if anyone were ever rash enough to allow her to do so. She claimed to be speaking for a section of society that she termed the ‘Forgotten Decents’. Which is an interesting concept from a woman who admired so many close colleagues who had concealed a paedophile ring. Of course Ann stood down from Parliament in 2010 and although she has made it known that she was miffed not to have been offered a seat in the Lords, her career post-politics has continued. She has become a sort of cabaret act, taking part in Strictly Come Dancing and the like. She devotes quite a bit of space to these activities in her autobiography.
Doris tells us how as part of a project for one TV programme she ‘found a prostitute’ called Collette from Peterborough, who wanted to escape from prostitution ‘but could get no help’. A bit like those teenaged boys in north Wales that your colleague Morrison was molesting then Ann. Ann sadly observes that Collette disappeared with a mobile phone that the TV folk had given her and ‘went off the radar’. Well some of the former residents of the children’s homes were found dead after they’d given evidence about what had happened to them and no-one even gave them a mobile phone to bugger off with.
During the filming of another TV programme, Doris was appalled to encounter a ‘work shy’ man called Mick Philpott who ‘pretended’ to take on a job that Ann had found for him ‘but never reported for duty’. Well if Ann had found him a job as a senior administrator at London University, he wouldn’t have needed to have reported for duty, he could have pissed off around the country with the use of a secretary campaigning for a seat in Parliament. Doris was also deeply traumatised when she discovered that the work shy man had a rather complex domestic set up – he was in a sexual relationship with a number of different partners all at once (just like Marjorie Wallace then) and made reference to him ‘servicing’ them. Doris was appalled at the use of this phrase. I can tell that when Doris worked in London medical schools she was an administrator who didn’t share a tea room with Top Doctors or their minions. Do you know what the absolute bog standard phrase at St George’s was for shagging someone Doris? Servicing them. I heard it every day, among much ribald speculation relating in particular to various Top Doctors who were known to be serving – or being serviced – by numerous casual partners. Indeed one Top Doctor who achieved fame for being serviced by five different men in one weekend now appears in glossy women’s magazines in relation to her campaigning work on FGM. I saw an article featuring her the other day. Unlike Ann, I don’t really mind who services who if it’s non-exploitative and between consenting adults, but the icing on the cake was when I was told that one of the Top Doctors at another medical school in London wasn’t very popular because ‘he has a pony tail and arrives on his motorbike every day’. I remarked that was hardly earth shattering and I was then told ‘yes but the trouble is he has sex with his children, he’s too much’. Yep, they knew that a professor of gynaecology in London was having sex with his children. They didn’t like it, they gossiped about it but not one of them lifted a finger to investigate or stop it. St Georges was a medical school with a labour ward that used to be occasionally visited by social workers and police officers to remove new born babies from the care of women if they had been deemed unsuitable to care for their children. The man who was alleged to be having sex with his children is still on the Medical Register, he is actually still a very big name and is a Professor Emeritus who sits on the Boards of numerous medical charities. But of course St Georges had a Professor of Paediatrics, Oliver Brooke, who in the mid 1980s went to prison for possessing huge quantities of child porn.
Like some of the Top Doctors, Doris has rather inconsistent views where sexuality is concerned. She supported Section 28 because it was ‘about protecting children’. (So that’s why the Tories covered up a paedophile ring then!!) When discussing child sexual abuse she relies on the Margaret Hodge defence of ‘we didn’t know about it in the 70s and 80s’. Yes Doris, we did know about it. Molesting children was considered very unacceptable indeed, even in the 70s and 80s, which is why people went to such lengths to conceal it. The one thing that people didn’t tend to accept in the 70s and 80s was that respectable middle class men with families and allegedly ‘normal’ lives might be involved in such activity – it was very much seen as the preserve of a loner in a flasher’s mac. To illustrate the depths of society’s ignorance regarding paedophilia, Doris mentions that Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt who were famously involved with the NCCL when it was affiliated to PIE are now ‘exemplary mothers’. I’m not sure that I see the connection – Harman and Hewitt I am sure would never let their own kids near paedophiles but that did not stop them from doing some stupid things when they worked for the NCCL and then throwing hissy fits in the media when it was exposed many years later. But then Margaret Thatcher would never have let Mark and Carol near a paedophile gang but she ignored one that ran riot in north Wales on her watch because they were only molesting the kids of some sheepshaggers who were in local authority care. The one paedophile whom Doris does have harsh words for is Jimmy Savile – Doris blames the BBC. It wasn’t the BBC who nominated him for a knighthood or invited him to Chequers for Christmas – it was Thatcher. And it wasn’t the BBC who put him in charge of a high security hospital – it was Doris’s colleague Edwina Currie….
Most staggeringly though, one paedophile who Doris has nothing but warm words for is the man who when Doris’s dancing partner Craig Revel Horwood was a teenager took Craig travelling and used him, in Ann’s own words, as ‘rent boy’. This man was a lot older than Craig and Craig’s mother was told a tall story in order to ensure that the travel plans weren’t stopped. Craig told Doris that despite all this, his travelling companion was a nice man. Which he might well have been, but he was also a highly exploitative man who was happy to lie to people in order to have sex with a minor. Doris marvels at Craig’s insights and wishes that the whole world could be as forgiving (which is odd coming from someone who is very keen on the idea of hanging people). She comments that friendship is a marvellous thing. Which I think is a fairly standard line that paedophiles use when approaching young people – and they tell them not to tell their mums what is going on.
So there’s The World According To Widdecombe for you. Doris’s political life has been one of daft simplistic ideas, of telling the plebs what’s good for them, of ludicrous games learnt at the Oxford Union, of ruthlessly fawning to powerful people particularly if they have titles or a great deal of money and of chortling away with her Tory mates whilst making smug comments about socialists. As a paedophile ring ripped through north Wales, leaving a trail of death, destruction and people wrongly imprisoned in it’s wake. Although Doris doesn’t know the difference between aluminium and zinc, she considers herself a multi-talented erudite being and she spends a lot of time turning her nose up at the plebs who haven’t read their Shakespeare. Had Doris been a different sort of electoral candidate for a seat in north Wales, she might well have bothered to become acquainted with some of the literature from the region. One of north Wales’s most famous writers was someone called Kate Roberts. She wrote a book called ‘Feet In Chains’ Doris. Which just about describes the state of those kids in north Wales who were shagged senseless and beaten up in order to provide sexual services for some of your colleagues and were banged up in the North Wales Hospital or Risley Remand Centre if they complained about what was happening. Should any readers think that I might be overdoing it here, I should explain that as well as the people mentioned in this post, in her book Doris also names scores of other political chums whom she has hung out with and who helped her along her way. FIVE of those names appear on the list of names that I have been sent by a journalist as being suspected members of the Westminster Paedophile Ring.
Doris has now retired to Dartmoor with a load of cats. But the damage that this rather dim woman inflicted because she thought that she was Prime Minister material remains.