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Ann Widdecombe makes her speech to the Commons
Ann Widdecombe says the time was right to speak out...
...and is relieved that it's over
MichaelHoward wishes to draw a line underneath the affair

Widdecombe's aim is to clean up politics

Ann Widdecombe, the former prisons minister, has said she feels "relieved" that she "found the courage" to make her Commons speech attacking the former Home Secretary, Michael Howard, over his sacking of the former Director of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis in 1995. She told GMTV: "As far as I'm concerned what I have done is to lay before the party, and the House in general, something that has been troubling me for some time. That is done."

Miss Widdecombe said that politicians have acquired a "fearfully bad reputation among the public" and that her aim was to work with members on all sides to "clean up" the image of politicians in the country.

She admitted that her campaign against Mr Howard have damaged her own career but still expressed no regrets: "Quite inevitably it will take me some time to get over what has happened this week. But on the other hand if I hadn't done it I would never have got over the gnawing away at my conscience which I have suffered from for quite some time."

Howard: leadership chances diminished?
Asked if she thought her allegations had damaged Mr Howard's chances of leading the Conservatives, Miss Widdecombe would not be drawn: "That is a matter for the party. I'm not going to make any gloating triumphalist statements" she said.

Later, speaking on BBC Breakfast News, Miss Widdecombe sounded pleased that the affair may be drawing to a close "I never again wish to repeat a week like last week," she said. Dismissing Mr Howard's reply she added that she was not "remotely satisfied" with his answers, calling them "non-existent".

One of Mr Howard's supporters, Sir Michael Spicer, took a different view. He told BBC Radio that he believed that the Shadow Home Secretary's chances had been enhanced by his performance in the Commons. "Michael's position is strong and growing in strength" he said.

Another member of the Howard team was less convinced and seemed to concede that Mr Howard's chances had been significantly diminished. Backbencher Andrew Lansley said: "Ann Widdecombe's attacks have cost Michael Howard time and opportunity to present his case. He needs to do that now and will do so vigorously over the days ahead," . Asked if Miss Widdecombe's actions had cost Mr Howard his chance of leading the Tories Mr Lansley replied: "It might prove that way, we have to wait and see."

Mr Howard is attempting to make up any lost ground by releasing a policy pamphlet "The Future of Europe". The document, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, a Conservative think-tank, calls for powers devolved to Brussels to be taken back to Westminster and should appeal to the Euro-sceptic vote. The pamphlet is the first in a series of publications to be published by the six contenders for the Tory leadership.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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