The Conservative MP for Braintree, Brooks Newmark, has resigned his government position after being caught sending explicit photos of himself over social media.
Newmark had only been in the job of minister for civil society for a couple of months before he was found sending pictures of himself over Twitter in a tabloid sting operation, and has decided to resign. He is a married father of five. Newmark assumed he was sending pictures to a woman online, who was actually a male reporter undercover.
Yet the real blow for Cameron is not necessarily the fact that one of his newest government ministers has had to stand down in embarrassing circumstances on the eve of Conservative party conference. It is the fact that Newmark has always been a vocal advocate of the Tory party boosting its appeal to women. He is a founder of the Tory campaign body, Women2Win, which works to help women become Tory candidates in the hope of increasing the representation of women in the Conservative party in parliament.
Newmark is co-chair of the group, and is often quoted responding to the party’s problems with appealing to – and representing – women. He is also a figure Tory MPs often refer to when attempting to defend their party’s attitude to women, ie. a male Tory MP who bangs the drum for women’s representation. Now they will no longer be able to use Newmark for this, at least for a good while, and he will inevitably become less of an appealing face of Women2Win and solving the Conservatives’ “women problem” in general.
I spoke to a female Tory activist at the party’s conference this afternoon, who was concerned about the events Women2Win and Conservative Future Women will be putting on at the conference this week because of Newmark’s actions. “Just why do it?” she despaired, shaking her head. She was worried about Newmark turning up (which is unlikely) to the events, and making them appear less credible because of being associated with the scandal, but also about the fact that he may not turn up. The movement’s morale will take a hit from losing one of its most vocal advocates. Such a hit in the ranks of the party who want to strengthen the Tories’ appeal to women will only add more to David Cameron’s often-reported “women problem”.