The Tory who went bump in the night

Clare Dean

No-nonsense MP Ann Widdecombe confesses to ghostly schoolgirl prank. Clare Dean reports

ANN Widdecombe, the right-wing Tory MP for Maidstone, might have been a Latin mistress had a career in politics not beckoned, she reveals in The TES today.

Latin was her favourite subject at La Sainte Union Catholic convent in Bath where she boarded. There she was known for being a competitive, hard-working pupil who occasionally got up to mischief.

She confesses to dressing up as ghost in a sheet one night along with other girls and wandering through the convent at the dead of night. "Unfortunately we got caught. There were three or four of us in the beginning but only two of us saw the whole thing through and actually walked those dark corridors."

Resourceful even in those days, she did a deal with another girl over bedmaking, which was not her forte. School rules dictated that coverlets had to have two sharp creases down the centre and a series going across.

"Mine came out like a rag. Eventually I did a swap with girl called Lucille. I did her Latin homework and she folded my coverlet. We continued this arrangement for my entire school career."

Sister Mary Evangelista taught Miss Widdecombe religion as well as Latin and was a powerful influence, taking the girls on school trips to Rome and to the traditional mass audience with the Pope.

Despite her convent education, Miss Widdecombe was brought up an Anglican. It was years later that she became one of the prominent converts to Rome after opposing Anglican women priests.

Law was another option for Miss Widdecombe but having decided on a political career, she went on to read politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.

Gyles Brandreth, the former Tory whip and an Oxford contemporary of the former Home Office minister, said: "She is quite simply the best woman we've got."

Miss Widdecombe kept in touch with Sister Evangelista. "She was intensely interested when I started making a name on the political scene. Whether or not she shares my politics, I don't know. I never asked and she never told me."

Friday magazine, 4

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