AGONY CAN'T! NO SEX, NO GAYS, NO DRUGS; Questions TV's New Problem Guru Refuses to Answer

The People (London, England), February 13, 2005 | Go to article overview

AGONY CAN'T! NO SEX, NO GAYS, NO DRUGS; Questions TV's New Problem Guru Refuses to Answer


Byline: CAROLINE BARRETT

TV'S newest Agony Aunt doesn't exactly have the background for helping other people tackle tricky problems.

Tough Tory MP Ann Widdecombe has NEVER had a sexual relationship, NEVER been married and NEVER had children.

So how can she hand out advice when most problem pages are full of questions from people struggling with failing love affairs, sexual hang-ups and misbehaving kids?

Easy, she says, she just won't go anywhere near problems like THAT...

In fact, she has ruled out topics from sex to drugs and homosexuality to abortion.

"I don't do the usual agony advice stuff. I'm not a therapist," says a defiant Ann, 57, whose new show Widdecombe To The Rescue starts on BBC2 in the spring.

"I don't do sex - I won't even go there. I simply won't.

"I don't do illegal drugs. My only advice would be to head straight to the police station."

The MP for Maidstone and The Weald - who shot to fame when she lost two stone on Celebrity Fit Club in 2002 - goes on: "I don't do homosexuality, either. And if you're thinking of having an abortion - don't."

So which questions WILL Ann handle on her new show?

"What I do is bring common sense to the table," she explains.

"My line is unless a person is very emotionally disturbed to the point where they need medical intervention, a problem can be solved with the common sense approach."

Ann has already recorded the series which sees her visit the homes of people asking for her help.

They include a mother and daughter who are always arguing, a man who can't get a job, a father who struggles to get his kids to bed, and brothers and sisters who don't get on.

And Aunty Ann insists that her advice was a great help.

Ann herself lives a rather sheltered life with her mother, Rita, in south east London. She says she was in love just once with a fellow student at Oxford University. I ask her what insight she can give when 70 per cent of letters to problem pages are about sex.

"It does strike me as the most amazing question," she protests. "How many murders has Ruth Rendall done to write about murder? None.

"The idea that you have to have been in a situation or done something to take a view on it is nonsense.

"I have a mother, a brother, I have nephews and nieces and I've absorbed a huge amount through common sense."

Ann meets me at the reception of her office overlooking the Houses of Parliament. She's far smaller than she appears on TV and a lot thinner. When she plonks down she is so small her feet barely touch the floor.

"I'm 5ft 1in - the 1in is incredibly important. Don't forget it," she says and bursts into laughter.

Ann admits that appearing on Louis Theroux Meets... in 2001 and then a few months later Celebrity Fit Club has made her an unlikely celebrity.

"If I am a celebrity, I am I imagine it's E-list," she laughs.

Ann's ability to keep off the pounds - she slimmed down from 11st 12lb to 9st 4lb over eight months - has earned her a place on the panel of the new series of Celebrity Fit Club. …

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