Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe has criticised Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for expressing their support for the decriminalisation of homosexuality across the Commonwealth.
Sixth-in-line to the throne Harry and his wife-to-be made a splash at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this month when they met with LGBT activists who are fighting for an end to persecution in Commonwealth countries.
36 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality, predominantly under anti-gay penal codes that were imposed during the British Colonial era and never repealed, but Prince Harry told the activists: “It’s time for us all to acknowledge that your inclusion and protecting everyone’s rights – including LGBTI rights – benefits everyone.”
Markle also told the group that she believed LGBT equality was about “basic rights” that everyone should enjoy.
Her statement apparently riled Conservative politician Widdecombe, a strong opponent of LGBT rights who hit out at the pair in a column in the Daily Express today.
Widdecombe wrote: “My doubts had grown [about Markle] when reports appeared in the press about how she and Harry were going to champion the rights of the LGBT community.”
She added: “First, royals don’t champion ‘rights’: they champion plights. That is what Diana did with victims of AIDS and landmines and very effective she was too.
“Rights are the business of politicians and pressure groups and never more so than when they are controversial.
Widdecombe added: “Second, what a week for any royal to join in the argument when the Commonwealth conference was in full swing, the position of Prince Charles as its future head was in delicate negotiation and some of its bishops were voicing concern about their countries being pressurised by Theresa May on the issue of LGBT rights.
“So nought out of 10 for both phraseology and timing.”
While not a fan of her speaking, Widdecombe went on to praise the future royal for sitting quietly and clapping at a concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s birthday.
Widdecombe, a former Conservative minister, spent decades battling equal rights reforms in the UK.
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As Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald from 1987 until 2010, she strongly opposed gay rights – voting to block them at every opportunity.
Widdecombe opposed every single equality measure for LGBT people during her 23 years as an MP, opposing an equal age of consent, the repeal of Section 28, the Equality Act, same-sex adoption and civil partnerships.
In a 2012 column she questioned the lack of availability of therapy for “gays who do not want to be gay” – a practice disavowed by nearly every major medical and psychological body.
The Conservative politician repeatedly clashed with drag star Courtney Act, real name Shane Jenek, on the Channel 5 reality show over LGBT rights.
Widdecombe criticised Jenek’s “lewd” behaviour with fellow housemate Andrew Brady, calling the pair “disgusting” and telling Brady that his mother and grandmother would be ashamed of him for the homoerotic flirtations.
Ofcom rejected 128 complaints about “sexual orientation discrimination” in the episode that aired on January 25, in which Widdecombe made the offending comments, as well as a further wave of complaints about homophobia in other episodes.