In the red corner, and in the blue corner

Kevin Brennan and Nick Hurd have one thing in common: they have both been chosen by their respective parties to speak on third sector issues. But that's where the similarities end.

Labour's choice of third sector minister is a state-educated steelworker's son from south Wales, whereas his Tory shadow went to Eton and there has been a Conservative MP in four consecutive generations of his family.

Before their political careers took off, Brennan was a teacher and Hurd worked in banking.

Brennan's political background is on the moderate left of his party. He was an aide and special adviser to Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who has been critical of New Labour's efforts to offer choice in public services. He also helped to found a Labour pressure group in 2003 that argued Tony Blair had been too accommodating to business interests. Unlike fellow critic Jon Cruddas, he has been invited to join the Government by Gordon Brown.

Hurd is part of David Cameron's modernising wing of the Conservative Party and has won an award for his commitment to environmental issues. He has also been vocal on the issue of damage to communities by the closure of post offices and small shops, a stance that has earned him the support of local pressure groups.

KEVIN BRENNAN - MINISTER FOR THE THIRD SECTOR

Background - Impeccably old-style Labour roots. He's the son of an Irish steelworker and a school dinner lady from south Wales. He is 48 years old.

Education - Went to a Catholic comprehensive school in south Wales before studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford. Then trained as a teacher.

Life before Parliament - Worked as a reporter with the Cwmbran Community Press. Then switched to teaching, becoming head of economics at a Cardiff comprehensive school. Elected to Parliament in 2001.

Political views - Was Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan's aide and special adviser before succeeding him as MP for Cardiff West. Co-founded New Wave Labour with 15 other Labour MPs in 2003, with the aim of shifting Tony Blair's government to the 'moderate left' and challenging neo-liberalism. The group's website has not been updated for five years. Rebelled over the Iraq war but joined Gordon Brown's team in 2005, initially as an assistant government whip.

Best line - "When America catches a cold we may sneeze, but we won't necessarily get pneumonia"

NICK HURD - SHADOW MINISTER FOR CHARITIES

Background - You might say he was born into a political family. He is the son of former Tory Home and Foreign Secretary Lord Douglas Hurd, and his grandfather and great-grandfather were also Tory MPs. He is 46 years old.

Education - Remarkably similar to David Cameron's: went to Eton and Oxford. Along with Cameron, was a member of the Bullingdon Club, a sometimes ill-behaved dining club with mostly wealthy members.

Life before Parliament - A business career that saw him run his own publishing company before representing a British bank in Brazil and advising the Tories on the needs of small businesses. Elected for Ruislip-Northwood in 2005.

Political views - Describes himself as a "fully signed-up Cameroon". Reportedly a member of the 'Green Chip' group of modernising Cameronite MPs. Told David Cameron his climate change policy was too soft. Also a decentraliser. Helped to guide through Parliament the Sustainable Communities Act, which gives councils the power to save small shops and reverse central government spending decisions. Became an opposition whip in 2007.

Best line - "I'm not convinced my politics are genetic, but I do believe I inherited a public service ethos from my ancestors"

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