The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Ann Widdecombe under fire for using male pronouns when speaking about India Willoughby

Former Conservative MP has a history of voting against LGBT rights

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 05 January 2018 12:19
Ann Widdecome calls India Willoughby 'he' on Celebrity Big Brother

Ann Widdecombe has only been in the Celebrity Big Brother house for five minutes and has already managed to cause several controversies.

The former Conservative politician upset viewers by describing transgender housemate India Willoughby as "he", as CBB celebrates the centenary of women's suffrage with an all-female lineup.

Willoughby, a journalist and BBC news broadcaster, underwent a full gender reassignment surgery in 2015 and identifies as a woman.

Discussing how they got their names, Willoughby joked that her parents had named her after their favourite takeaway.

Widdecombe quickly remarked: "I think he is pulling your leg."

An intake of of breath was heard from Willoughby who looked irritated and says: "He? She."

This was not the only instance where Widdecombe misgendered Willoughby on the show. Journalist, editor and author Rachel Johnson - sister of Boris Johnson - has also made the error, however some viewers have accused Widdecombe of doing it deliberately.

The pair were in the kitchen when Johnson told Widdecombe that Willoughby had cleared all the dishes, saying: "I think he did everything."

Ashley James corrected her quickly, saying "she", to which a mortified-looking Johnson said: "I can't believe I just did that."

Widdecome admitted she had done it, to which Johnson made the mistake again, saying: "Not with him in the room?"

Widdecombe said: "At least thank God you haven't done it with him... er her... I can't cope, I can't cope."

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

An exasperated James jumped in: "Her! Both of you! I really do think of her as her."

Widdecombe claimed it was a "generational thing" and clarified to James that she thought of Willoughby as "he".

"Therefore I'm watching myself the whole time and then yesterday I slipped up," she said.

James urged the pair to be more considerate of Willoughby's feelings, telling them: "Even if she was very graceful about it, it must sting."

Johnson, who is only a year older than Willoughby, said: "We're going to be the house dinosaurs from now on."

Widdecombe has several controversial views on trans and women's rights. She is staunchly anti-abortion and once defended the practice of shackling pregnant women prisoners during labour.

According to vote monitoring website Public Whip, she opposed an equal age of consent for gay people and straight people, voted against same-sex adoptions, civil partnerships, and the equality act.

PinkNews reports she has previously also expressed support for so-called "gay cure therapy".

She voted no to maintain a ban on education around homosexuality in schools in 2003, and said in 2014 that people should have the "freedom" to discriminate against the gay couple caught up in a row with a Belfast bakery that refused to make a cake with a pro-equal marriage message.

Discussing her decision to transition with Maggie Oliver in Wednesday's episode of CBB, Willoughby said she had found a new lease of life since embracing her true identity.

"I know who I am now," she said. "When I started telling people it was tough for the people around me - my mum in particular took it like a bereavement, she thought she was going to lose [her son]."

As Oliver told her she thought she was "very brave", Willoughby responded: "The real brave people are the people that stick by you."

Follow Independent Culture on Facebook

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in