In the past decade charities ministers of main parties have, variously, been aspiring, temporary, patrician, semi-detached, dedicated, unconvincing or some combination of these. The latest incumbent, Rob Wilson, brings the new dimension of being almost accidental. Left out in the cold in July when the imminent publication of his book on political scandals prevented him from taking up an offer to be prisons minister, he came unexpectedly back into the warm in September when Brooks Newmark disgraced himself.
Wilson is a self-made, man-of-the-people kind of politician who will no doubt prove useful in counteracting any impression that too many Tory ministers are scions of privilege. On the backbenches, writing his two books has filled time left over from tending his Reading East constituency. Now he's putting his shoulder to the wheel in the Office for Civil Society. As he says in his interview in the January edition of Third Sector, he is keen to set up an improved system of support for charities and social enterprises, especially those delivering public services, and is trying to create a £100m endowment with £60m that was announced in July with contributions from the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. If he gets this up and running successfully before the election it will be something to put in the Conservative manifesto.
The biggest uncertainty is the election result, and the only certainty is continued public spending cuts
That interview is part of our analysis of the prospects for charities in 2015. Various sector-specific concerns, including the lobbying act and tighter regulation generally, are among the clouds on the horizon. The biggest uncertainty is the election result, and the only certainty is continued public spending cuts.
Also in this month's issue, we talk to Mike Adamson, promoted to chief executive at the British Red Cross, who is keen to impart clearer definition to the charity. And we dip a toe in the turbulent waters of the "profit-with-purpose" debate.