Ann Widdecombe

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The other day, I joined the green ink brigade and wrote to an MP.

Dear Miss Widdecombe,

I was interested to read your comment in The Times today about your views on the appropriateness of Anna Arrowsmith standing as a parliamentary (Lib Dem) candidate for Gravesham. You state that ‘It is entirely inappropriate that someone involved in that sort of business should be a candidate…’ and yet her business (that of a pornographic film maker) is entirely legal, and its product is appreciated by many thousands of voters. So what, exactly, are your objections? Would you care to expound? And finally, you point out with some pride on your website that you yourself are employed by a pornographer, one Richard Desmond. Or is ‘pornographer’ a conveniently relative term?

I look forward to an answer at your earliest convenience.

Yours, etc.

I don’t really expect the Hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald to answer this, but you never know. I sort of hope she does. I’d be interested to see what she would have to say. A formidable organiser and a keen promoter of her views (anyone who with a weekly column in the Daily Express with its two-thirds-of-a-million readership has a reasonably impressive soapbox from which to rant), she also seems possessed of a rather enviable moral certainty about… well, just about everything. But those who see moral issues in terms of black and white usually come a cropper sooner or later. Likewise those who seek to foist the moral values of their particular faith system upon a largely secular society.

No one likes being called a pornographer because of the word’s extremely pejorative connotations. But in light of recent events, I would find it easier to admit to editing a ‘pornographic’ magazine than to being a director of a large bank, a prelate in the Catholic church or, indeed, a Member of the House of Commons (though in the context of the expenses scandal, it’s only fair to say that Widdecombe has been shown to be purer than driven snow).

So you might think that Ann Widdecombe should have resisted the temptation to cast aspersions upon Anna Arrowsmith’s profession in a newspaper that has an even larger circulation than the Daily Express. But show a noisy toddler to a Rottweiler and you’ll get a similar Pavlovian reaction. The poor woman simply can’t help herself. One can only guess at how the conversation might have gone in The Times editorial office.

Senior Editor:
“This one’s a corker. Someone give Widdy a bell and wind her up. You can always rely on her to give a great quote on anything to do with sex. Worth its weight in gold.”
Editorial Assistant:
“Don’t you think we need someone who will actually broaden the debate? Isn’t Widdecombe too much of a Mary Whitehouse figure? Sort of a caricature of a caricature?”
Senior Editor:
“You’ve still got a lot to learn about what sells newspapers, laddie/girl. Why do you think Richard Desmond gets her to bang on in his rag every week?”

‘It is entirely inappropriate that someone involved in that sort of business should be a candidate…’ Let’s take a moment to examine just what Ann is saying here: That anyone working within the adult film industry should be excluded from taking part in politics and representing his or her local area? Apart from the irony that Ann herself works for a famous pornographer and is presumably quite happy to take his shilling, this is a bit like saying anyone writing crime novels or thrillers is unsuitable to represent people in parliament, in case their portrayal of gangsters and murderers should have corrupted them.

Whether you view it as a Pandora’s box escapee, a sort of Big Mac addiction for the compulsive masturbator or just another step in the right direction towards a sexually unrepressed and progressive society, pornography is here to stay. Anna Arrowsmith is in a position to do something positive about it. Nick Clegg has said that Anna’s profession ‘is not his cup of tea’ as anyone with any political sense would, but I got the impression that he really is behind her, that he recognises her views as not just valid, but important, too.

It’s been said that the Roman Catholic Church (Ann Widdecombe is a convert to this faith) makes little or no distinction between the erotic and the pornographic. Again, those with such marvellous moral certainty and clarity of vision should occasionally look up and see the Big World of contemporary society. It’s a complicated place with issues that are difficult for the morally sclerotic to grasp, such as sex that is purely recreational, same-sex sex or, for those without the benefit of forming a physical relationship, pornography or prostitution. Such as the fact that at last a cardinal in the Catholic church is looking at the possible link between celibacy and the Church’s appalling (and for the past few decades, scandalously hidden) record of child abuse. Such as the fact that one day, perhaps one day soon, we’ll have a feminist pornographer not only representing her constituents in the House of Commons, but shining some light upon the muddled and botched pornography laws of this country.

You know something, Miss Widdecombe? Don’t bother to answer that letter. I think I’ve worked out what you’d say anyway.

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