Third Sector at Large: Hurd fears grilling but keeps digs with a barbecue view

The Giving White Paper, Nick Hurd and MPs volunteering are all on our minds this week

- Why was the launch of the Giving White Paper running 15 minutes late last Monday, including the opening speech by the Prime Minister? All became clear when the civil society minister, Nick Hurd, finally rushed up to the lectern. "The last words I wanted to hear this morning were 'this train will not be stopping at Milton Keynes'," he said. "I've kept the PM waiting, I've kept you waiting and this is probably my last speech as a minister." The 'I'm-so-scared' theme continued, and he used the phrase "career implications" twice when declining to respond to questions about tax or answer on behalf of the Prime Minister. It all makes that nice Mr Cameron seem a bit of a tyrant.

- But Wednesday came and Hurd was still in his post. In fact, he was rubbernecking at the window instead of getting on with his work. "My office looks over the Rose Garden at No 10," he tweeted. " Presidential BBQ in full swing with lots of servicemen and women enjoying the sunshine ... the Leader of the Free world flipping burgers." With digs like that, you can see why he doesn't want to be sacked.

- One attention-grabbing bit of Cameron's speech was the commitment for all ministers to spend a day a year volunteering. Perhaps William Hague could offer free judo instruction or George Osborne could do the sums for the parish council? But the Cabinet Office can't say what they're all doing - which is a bit lame, surely, given that Francis Maude was caught out by this only last year. He floundered about when Radio 4's PM programme asked him what he did, finally muttering something about church. The unlamented Alistair Campbell would certainly have had them all reciting prepared answers the next morning.

- Meanwhile, last week, in deepest Wales, the Charity Commission managed to attract 80 people to its public meeting in a small country hotel, thanks no doubt to a more interesting programme than usual and an extensive puff, complete with map, in this column recently. It makes a change from the zero showing in Liverpool for the last of the open board meetings, which the politburo now admits failed to entrance the proletariat with the intricacies of its decision-making.

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