Prudish Ann Widdecombe got her knickers in a twist at an awards bash and refused to present a businesswoman with a gong – because she runs a lingerie firm.
The Strictly Come Dancing star, 64, was presenting prizes at the Woman of Worth Awards when winning entrepreneur Emily Bendell, 30, was called to the stage.
But former Conservative MP Ann said her saucy website www.BlueBella.com was against her strict Catholic principles – and handed the gong to another judge to present.
Oxford graduate Emily said: ”As I walked down to the stage she must have said she didn’t want to give me the award and I noticed a kerfuffle as she handed it over.
”It was a real surprise that it happened at an event that was meant to celebrate the success of women. It certainly took the shine out of the day for me.
”Ann is a great proponent of women getting ahead by their own merits so I would have hoped that she would have recognised my achievements.”
Emily, of West Bridgford, Nottingham, started her luxury lingerie, nightwear and sex toys party business BlueBella in 2005.
It received a six-figure investment last Spring and is now a multi-million pound business which has grown by 150 per cent in the last year.
Her efforts were recognised at the Women of Worth Awards which were held by the East Midlands Development Agency at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham last Wednesday.
A short film of Emily speaking about her business was shown before Ann opened the envelope and announced her as the winner of the Small Business of the Year.
But the entrepreneur could see the self-confessed virgin quickly hand the award to fellow judge Penny Mallory before she arrived on stage.
When Emily later asked what had happened she was shocked to hear that Ann had shunned her due to the nature of her business.
Emily said: ”Bluebella is all about empowering women and that’s one of the reasons I was so proud to receive the award on behalf of our female workforce.
”I am very proud of what we do and I don’t think the nature of our product necessarily implies any impropriety.
”We sell lingerie and sex toys, but we also sell casual underwear and sleepwear and there are plenty of married couples who enjoy our products.”
After the bash the outspoken Tory agreed to have her picture taken with Emily – on the condition that would not be holding the award.
She said: ”It was clear that she didn’t know the nature of the business before she saw the film of me speaking about BlueBella.
”I did have my picture taken with her afterwards, but it was quite awkward and she said that she hoped I understood.”
Emily and Ann are both Oxford University graduates and have both acted as presidents of student bodies.
Ann Widdecombe had a three-year unconsummated romance as a student but has since openly declared herself a virgin.
Asked about sex she has previously said: ”Yuk! Spare me! That’s one thing I don’t miss.”
She was born into an Anglican Church family but became the first person since the reformation to convert to Catholicism in the Commons crypt in 1993.
During last year’s Strictly Come Dancing show, she famously refused to wear skimpy clothing, saying: ”What I wouldn’t show the Pope, I shan’t be showing the audience.”
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