Words by Richard Fleury
Homophobic Brexit Party politician Ann Widdecombe's Faversham 'one-woman show' by has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.
Several theatres around the UK dropped Strictly Ann: An evening with Ann Widdecombe after the former Maidstone MP's ''vile' anti-gay remarks in a TV interview last year, when she claimed science may "produce an answer" to homosexuality.
Her appearance at the Alexander Centre was billed as “Entertaining, enlightening and as controversial as you would expect” promoting Widdecombe herself as “sailing dangerously close to national treasure status.”
As a Conservative MP, Widdecombe consistently voted against LGBTQ rights. Now a Brexit Party politician Widdecombe is a supporter of so-called 'conversion therapy' – damaging attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation condemned by health organisations.
At least six venues around the UK subsequently cancelled Widdecombe's scheduled appearances with one explaining “We flatly refuse to offer a stage to someone who wishes to promote such vile opinion” and another calling her an “absolute fruit loop!”
News of Widdecombe's impending Faversham gig was met with equal distaste. A local Facebook group post headed ‘national treasure’ or ‘hateful old bag’? generated some lively responses.
Although advertised since last year, ticket sales were poor. Alexander Centre trustees' chairman Graham Setterfield confirmed: “The event was cancelled jointly by us and the promoter after discussion, in part due to low ticket sales.
“We were approached by a promoter with a package of events to see whether we wanted three very different people giving talks about their careers with each talk followed by a Q&A,” explained Graham. “Those offered were Dom Joly, talking about his travels and his childhood, John Challis talking about Only Fools and Horses and his acting career, and Ann Widdecombe talking about her political career and her time on Strictly Come Dancing and Have I Got News For You.
Swale and Town Lib Dem councillor Hannah Perkin welcomed the cancellation. “Ann Widdecombe is not a fluffy has-been who has done Strictly and pantomime,” she said. “She was a powerful politician who held some very high positions of public office,” describing Widdecombe's views as “appalling and regressive”.
Faversham Labour Party's Jenny Reeves said; “I'm happy local people obviously have better taste than to buy tickets to such a divisive woman's event. Clearly our town is made of better stuff than she thought.”
Widdecombe infamously defended the owners of a Belfast bakery who refused to make a cake bearing a pro-equal marriage message, saying: “In a free country the baker should be able to refuse to take part in what is effectively PR for gay marriage.”
But she wasn't quite so supportive of theatre owners refusing a stage to an anti-gay politician however, calling their choice “liberal tyranny”.
Kent Police reported a 42 percent annual rise in the number of LGBTQ hate crimes in 2018-2019. Nationally, attacks have doubled in the last five years.
Since several Conservative councillors voted against displaying the pride flag in 2018, Faversham has hosted its first Pride event and the first Swale Pride; both popular and well-attended events.
Outspoken national treasure-in-waiting or vile fruitloop? Let's take a look at the former Big Brother contestant's 'best bits'...
Converted from Church of England to Roman Catholicism, describing the ordination of women as 'the last straw'.
As prisons minister, defended shackling pregnant prisoners in hospital, despite the Royal College of Midwives warning the policy put mothers' and babies' health at risk, thus earning herself the nickname 'Doris Karloff'.
Called for zero tolerance towards all users of soft drugs.
As shadow health secretary, said private health insurance was the only way of guaranteeing good standards of healthcare.
Wrote that “Abortion is not just a religious belief. Some of my best work against abortion was done when I was an agnostic.”
Told the House of Commons "Homosexual acts are wrongful".
Reportedly claimed: “There is no climate change. Hasn’t anybody looked out of their window recently?”
Supported "gay conversion" therapy in a newspaper article. Called for binge drinkers to be named and shamed in newspapers
Backed bakery owners who refused to make a cake decorated with an equal marriage message.
Wrote in support of the death penalty (contradicting the pope).
Said victims of Harvey Weinstein “had a choice”
Claimed the #MeToo movement has “given rise to a lot of very trivial whinging”.
Called the gender pay gap
“very largely a myth”.
Told Sky News that science
may yet "provide an answer"
to being gay. Compared Brexit
to slaves revolting against
their owners. Called ‘Waspi women’ deprived of their pensions by the Coalition government “whingers and whiners”.