Widdecombe tipped as `leader-in-waiting'

JACK STRAW'S comments about gypsies provided yet another high- profile media opportunity for the woman some Tories are saying is their leader-in-waiting.

Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, has impressed government ministers and her supporters while standing in for William Hague during his three-week holiday break. The MP for Maidstone and The Weald set an exhausting pace, with a schedule that included 140 media interviews, 15 major speeches and 16 constituency visits.

Ms Widdecombe has travelled 2,000 miles criss-crossing the country, wagging her finger at civil servants, Whitehall departments and, most of all, Tony Blair, over the past month. She was originally supposed to share the burden of running Conservative Central Office with the party chairman, Michael Ancram, but the party has allowed her free rein in the light of her effectiveness.

On everything from the botched lifting of the beef ban to the Prime Minister's sojourn in Tuscany, she has proved a tough yet witty campaigner on television and radio. She said of Mr Blair's family stay in the villa refurbished at the expense of local taxpayers: "For the first time a British prime minister has been declared in the foreign press to be a scrounger. How does that sit with his declaration when he came into office that he wasn't going to enjoy the trappings of power?"

Ms Widdecombe's popularity marks an impressive political comeback for the woman once dubbed Doris Karloff over the Tories' policy of handcuffing pregnant prisoners. Free of spin-doctored gloss, her approach contrasts sharply with that of Mr Hague, though opponents say she is "too extreme" to lead the party.

One Tory insider said her media performances had proved she could carry off the job of making her party electable once more. "She has done herself a lot of favours. Ann was only meant to be minding the shop but you could say sales have gone through the roof with Hague away," he added.

After sacking Peter Lilley, Mr Hague has no deputy, but Ms Widdecombe's success may have put her in pole position for the job if it were to be resurrected. Ironically, Ms Widdecombe's favourite Labour politician is her opponent over the dispatch box. "The thing is ... I really, really like Jack Straw," she told a friend.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher, full time supply role, Isle of Sheppey

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job: Our client school is lo...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week