It’s reshuffle time. The revolving door has swung round once more—and this time a new Charity Minister has emerged. Welcome to Brooks Newmark MP.
But first a note about the man going in the opposite direction, Nick Hurd, who stepped down from his ministerial role last night.
Hurd will have enjoyed his goodbyes. His own valedictory note (delivered, naturally, via Twitter) thanked a sector which has driven him ‘nuts’ but for whom his ‘love and respect is undimmed’. Some of the sector’s big beasts queued up to say nice things in return. NCVO’s Stuart Etherington called Hurd an ‘outstanding minister’ and promised some sort of farewell party later this year; our own Dan Corry hailed Hurd’s support for the Inspiring Impact programme, on which NPC collaborates, and the ‘great legacy’ he will take from that.
The consensus seems that Hurd was polite and quietly sceptical—not a bad combination in someone trying to corral the best results out of civil society’s extraordinary army of on-the-ground staff, dedicated volunteers and backroom policy wonks.
And what about the new man in post? Well first, Brooks Newmark is making something of a comeback. A Government Whip from 2010, he was removed from office in 2012, and is stepping back into the fray again now. The Conservative MP for Braintree enjoys a hefty majority (the best part of 20,000 votes ahead of anyone else) and today, once again, a seat in government.
There are also gaps we can fill in ourselves. We know that Newmark founded his own charity in 2009, A Partner in Education, which trains and supports teachers in Rwanda. The charity’s mission, according to its own website, is to ‘transform the learning experiences of children by focusing on the provision of training for teachers and school managers’. We can probably expect the minister to make plenty of this when establishing his bona fides to the sector in coming months.
Meanwhile, for those of us interested in seeing greater financial rigour brought to the charity sector, Newmark’s spells during this parliament on the Treasury Committee and Finance and Services Committee holds out some promise.
So what awaits the new minister? Questions about government contracts, for sure, which remain as controversial as ever. Hopefully the continued encouragement of innovative, effective projects (Inspiring Impact launched its latest materials last month). And maybe even the revival of Big Society ideas—just this afternoon their original architect, the former Special Advisor Danny Kruger, pushed for renewing the whole programme.
There is plenty still to learn about Mr Newmark, who I dare say will be looking through a list of sector bigwigs in the very near future, working out with whom he should meet and what they are likely to demand of him. Will charities be greeted once more as a nutty but loveable bunch? Over to you, minister…