Let’s Dance: Ann Widdecombe with Anton Du Beke on Strictly in 2010
Ann Widdecombe, 76, is known as much for her post-parliamentary career as for her time as an MP, having left Westminster to become, among other things, a TV personality, pantomime regular and, of course, Strictly Come alum BBC Dancing. , writes Angela Epstein.
It was a program that lasted ten weeks. The series also paid for the pool at her Dartmoor home.
The former Conservative member for Maidstone appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2018, the fee for which Ann says was “silly money”. It was rumored to cost £100,000.
Despite her 23 years as an MP and another 11 as an MEP, Ann was never called to the House of Lords. “I was very disappointed,” she admits, “but no one has the prescriptive right to go there.”
She was a member of the Brexit party from 2019 until it was renamed Reform UK in 2021. Ann rejoined Reform UK in 2023, which she calls “the only common sense party there is”.
What did your parents teach you about money?
MY mother was very picky about savings, although for no particular reason, and since I was little I had a robin-shaped piggy bank called a squawky: when you put money in it, it squawked. I switched to a post office savings account. But it didn’t really last. If you ask me if I am a saver or a spender, I say that I am a spender, since I spend first and save what is left. Savers do it the other way around.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Oh yeah, during the credit crunch of the late 80s and early 90s when mortgages skyrocketed. At that time, MPs were not as well paid as they are now, benefits were very meager and I had two properties: my flat in London and a small cottage in my constituency. So I had to get by for a few years. He had been an administrator at London University before I became an MP (not a banker or lawyer) and I still had to take a pay cut to enter Parliament.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
Last year, I took 11 members of my family on a vacation and safari in Kenya. It was pure fun, a trip of a lifetime. I turned 75 and thought, well, I’ve been around for three quarters of a century and there’s no guarantee I’ll make it to 100. I was in Kenya in 1989 when a friend was in the embassy there. I loved it, I went on safari and I wanted to do it again. Although I still don’t do vacations as a ritual. And before this trip last year I hadn’t had a vacation in five years. However, as part of my job, I give talks on cruise ships, so I travel for free. If I had to pay for it, I wouldn’t do it!
What is your biggest money mistake?
Probably the house I bought for £56,000 in Sutton Valence, Kent, when I became an MP in 1987. It was small and all I could afford, but I gave in to pressure from constituents who wanted their MP to own a house. house in the area.
The problem was that the allocations then were not what they are now. He already had a flat in London, in Kennington (where all the MPs who couldn’t afford much lived). So I had to pay two deposits plus capital repayments. It was quite difficult for a couple of years. That said, some MPs took out interest-only mortgages and I was very glad I didn’t, as by the time I sold them I had already paid off much of the principal.
The game begins: Ann as a newly elected Brexit party MEP in 2019
The best monetary decision you have ever made
Well, I never lived up to my ministry income, which meant I paid off the house mortgage faster. But without a doubt, the last house I bought in London, in 1999, was the best financial decision I made in my life. I had been thinking that I would have to leave my apartment for something bigger to take care of my parents. So I chose a four-bedroom house with a garden and garage on Old Kent Road. That was the fastest profit I made on a property and it was a solid investment.
If I hadn’t retired to the West Country, I would have easily been worth seven figures by now. I sold it in 2008 and was able to buy something much larger (a 1970s five-bedroom chalet bungalow near Haytor on Dartmoor) for the same price. I needed a lot of work and I didn’t move until 2010.
Do you save for a pension?
The only thing I’ve gotten right my entire life has been to be very diligent about my pension from the beginning. I always had occupational plans and when I left my job at the University of London after being elected as an MP, I transferred it to the parliamentary plan and worked long enough to maximize the pension. I was Minister of Pensions from 1991 to 1993 and I got this right.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
No. I can safely say that I have never bought stocks or shares. I’m not a big saver, but my father also bought shares in all the nationalized industries after they were privatized and it was quite difficult to sort out his will. I remember thinking: I’m never going to get into this and I never did.
How many properties do you have?
Only one, on Dartmoor, which I bought for the views (I needed to gut it). I can see from Dartmoor to Torquay. On a clear day, the sea sparkles and I love sitting on the terrace. Admittedly, on a foggy day I can’t see even a foot past the front door.
What was the best year of your financial life?
The year I retired, in 2010, I had saved for a pension, I received a lump sum and MPs also received a reinstatement allowance. I made a profit from the books I had written – seven so far and I plan to do more.
Bathtub Banging: Ann with Ashley James on Celebrity Big Brother 2018
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, for Celebrity Big Brother. I will never win anything on that scale again.
I had told my agent I would never do the show. But she explained that for the next season they wanted to call her Big Sister – although that didn’t happen – and that she would celebrate 100 years of suffrage. Then there would be more serious people than usual and there would be more serious debates.
I said, “A lot of nonsense.” But my agent reminded me that he wouldn’t be in Australia, in the jungle. It was Elstree and I could leave at any time. So I did it on that basis, thinking it would last a week. But I stayed.
If you were chancellor, what would you do?
Reduce taxes immediately as this promotes growth, encourages business and combats inflation. I believe in a very small state.
Do you donate money to charities?
There are three charities close to my heart: The Leprosy Mission, Holy Land Donkey Safe Haven and Buttercups Goat Sanctuary. I have always had a special affection for the mission against leprosy. The way I donate is through speaking engagements.
What is your number one financial priority?
In my working life my priority was to maximize my pension and now that I am retired I think I want enough to survive into old age.
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