Out of the picture? Newmark resigns as Civil Society Minister

Conservative MP Brooks Newmark, 56, has stepped down as Minister for Civil Society after being alerted to a tabloid story about his personal life.

Newmark resigned at the weekend after barely two months in post. The Sunday Mirror's front page alleged that father of five Newmark shared saucy snaps of himself with an undercover reporter posing as a female party activist

A statement from the Prime Minister's office said: "The Prime Minister has accepted Brooks Newmark’s resignation from his role as Minister for Civil Society. He will be replaced by Rob Wilson MP.”

Newmark has been a Conservative MP for Braintree since 2005 and replaced Nick Hurd as Minister for Civil Society in July this year as part of the Prime Minister's pre-election cabinet reshuffle. In his first public speech as a Government minister Newmark received criticism from many in the civil society sector over comments he made in response to a question from Rosemary Bennett of The Times.

"What charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting” and “doing the best they can to promote their agenda which should be about helping others," Newmark said at the Nesta and Cabinet Office Social Action conference. 

The announcement of Newmark's resignation started trending on Twitter in London and the United Kingdom as a whole. Rowan Conway – director of Connected Communities at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) – posted: "It looks like #brooksnewmark should have taken his own advice and stuck to his knitting."

Director of business at Social Enterprise UK Nick Temple tweeted: "Brooks Newmark resigning apparently #shortesttenureever – decision to remove Hurd even more absurd now."

David Cameron's decision to replace Nick Hurd with Newmark had appeared strange to many in the UK civil society space. Hurd was generally liked and respected and knew his brief, having held the post since the Conservatives came to power.

New incumbent Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, will now take up the baton for the Big Society, the National Citizen Service youth programme and youth policy, social enterprise and social investment.

He will also support the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude on public sector efficiency and reform.

Mr Wilson is understood to have turned down a Ministerial position in July to focus on the imminent release of his book, The Eye of the Storm: The View from the Centre of a Political Scandal, which touches on the biggest embarrassments in recent political history. He also cited a heavy workload in his constituency as a reason for not accepting the post.

Mr Wilson has previously held the positions of Shadow Minister for Higher Education from 2007-2009, Opposition Whip from 2009-2010 and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and then for the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne until July.

Newmark's resignation has been dubbed one half of a "devasting double blow" to David Cameron and the Conservative Party on the eve of the party conference which is to be held in Birmingham over the next few days. Another Conservative MP announced that he was deflecting to UKIP on the same day.


Photo credit: Flickr