Former MP and novelist turned dancing star and game show host ANN WIDDECOMBE talks to In2 about why she finally donned her dancing shoes on Strictly Come Dancing, what she really thinks of the coalition Government and what we can expect from her touring show; An Audience With when she comes to Southend this month...
by Michelle Norris
WHEN Ann Widdecombe flew across the dance floor into the opening arms of Anton Du Beke in 2010, we saw a whole new side to the sharp-tongued former MP – she may not have had the moves, but she certainly made us smile.
Now, while hosting her daytime TV quiz show Cleverdicks on Sky Atlantic, the quick-witted 64-year-old will be returning to the stage, giving audiences up and down the country a chance to learn more about her life in parliament and on the dance floor in An Audience With Ann Widdecombe, which arrives in Southend on 26 April.
And although she’s known for her no nonsense attitude, Ann will be opening up the floor to the audience at the Palace Theatre, promising to answer any question thrown her way.
“If the audience want to ask me some advice, I’d be up for that, but it’s not exactly going to be the Jeremy Kyle show,” laughs the former Conservative Party MP. “It’s basically me talking about my life with some anecdotes. Then there’s an interval where people can go get a drink and I can sign some books, then in the second half it’s all down to the audience. I’m completely open to answer questions about anything really, but if the audience get stuck, I’ll move them on.”
However as a former politician, a successful novelist, a columnist and a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing (where she famously wore that yellow outfit), I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about.
Yet, at the moment, there’s only one thing on Ann’s mind: the budget.
“The Government have to get the money from somewhere and unfortunately the last Government left such an almighty mess to be cleaned up,” she sighs. “Although I don’t agree with the granny tax they’ve brought in. What’s the point of differentiating between those who have just retired and those that are of an older age?
“My advice to Mr Cameron? Stop letting the coalition fail.”
Retiring from parliament herself in 2010, Ann decided to stretch her legs and try something new – and what better way to spend your retirement years than competing in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing?
“They asked me every year from 2001 to 2009 and I turned them down each time, then I retired and I thought ‘why not?’,” she says. “I could never have done it while I was in parliament because of the timings and also because of the dignity. But it took a while for people to accept me on the show because I was no longer required to act like an MP.”
Indeed, coming sixth in the popular dancing show alongside professional dancer Anton Du Beke, Ann admits that her time on Strictly is something she still treasures dearly, especially her friendship with Anton.
In fact, only last month the pair were seen joking with each other at the Sport Relief Fun Run in London.
“Oh yes, we did a three legged race, it was great fun,” laughs Ann. “It’s always lovely to see Anton.”
And for those who have been missing Ann on Strictly, you can catch her on her latest TV project for Sky Atlantic – Cleverdicks, where Ann plays the host of the quiz show, testing the knowledge of four intelligent contestants.
“I don’t think I’m anything like Anne Robinson because I’m always nice to the contestants,” she says, referring to The Weakest Link presenter. “I don’t see the point of institutionalised rudeness. But I’m absolutely loving Cleverdicks. I love the contestants, I’m just hoping that they commission a second series.”
For now though, Ann is focussing on her appearance in Southend and is promising a mix of fun and humour for all.
“You never know how many questions you’re going to have or what they’re going to be about so it helps to keep the evenings fresh,” she says. “Although, about 70% of the questions I’ll have had before, so people had better start thinking.”
An Audience with Ann Widdecombe comes to the Palace Theatre in Southend on 27 April. For tickets, call 01702 351135. All profits will go towards the Southend Mayor’s Charities.