'Who is the new charities minister? And what qualifies him for this post?'

Brooks Newmark has a background in the finance sector and is the co-founder of a charity that helps to train teachers in Rwanda

Brooks Newmark reportedly lost his role as a whip after posting about Downton Abbey on Twitter
Brooks Newmark reportedly lost his role as a whip after posting about Downton Abbey on Twitter

A tweet from Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change, summarised the initial reaction to the appointment of Brooks Newmark, the MP for Braintree, as Minister for Civil society. Tyler tweeted: "Who is Brooks Newmark? And what qualifies him for this incredibly critical post?"

Born in the US, the 56-year-old Newmark moved to the UK at the age of nine and attended Caldicott Preparatory School and Bedford School before studying history at Harvard University in the US. He was a research student in politics at Worcester College, Oxford, before taking an MBA at Harvard Business School.

He went on to work in the finance sector, becoming a senior partner at the private equity firm Apollo Management, before becoming an MP in 2005. He has served as a government whip and as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.

His interests include foreign policy, poverty reduction and international development, special needs education and women's issues. His published papers include Simply Red: The True State of the Public Finances, The Price of Irresponsibility and The Hidden Debt Bombshell. He describes himself as "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" on his Twitter page.

In 2011, the Daily Mail said he had been to Syria to meet President Bashar al-Assad, who was accused at the time of authorising the deaths of hundreds of pro-democracy supporters. The Foreign Office defended the trip, saying Newmark had visited the country in a personal capacity. Questions were raised in parliament by Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary.

The Mail also reported the following year that he had lost his role as a whip after the chief whip objected to him posting showbusiness-themed messages on Twitter, including one about deciding whether to watch Downton Abbey or Spooks.

In 2009, he co-founded A Partner in Education, a charity that helps to train teachers in Rwanda. The charity had an income of £1,193, but spent £5,296 in the year to November 2012, according to its accounts.

For the past seven years, he has been a patron of Parc (Essex), a charity in Braintree, Essex, that supports children with special needs. In 2008, he ran the London Marathon for the charity, finishing in five hours, 37 minutes and raising more than £38,000 from 65 donations, according to JustGiving. Nick Ross, a trustee of Parc, credits Newmark with helping it to build a permanent home in 2009.

Newmark lists Farleigh Hospice in Essex among his other causes. Gary Hawkes, head of fundraising and PR at the hospice, says he has been a supporter of its work since becoming an MP. "He has hosted an event for us at the House of Commons, supported us financially and visited the hospice on a number of occasions," Hawkes says.

Married with five children – aged between 16 and 25 – Newmark co-founded the Million Jobs campaign last year, which was set up to tackle youth unemployment, and has recently spoken about youth employment in Westminster debates. Like his predecessor, Nick Hurd, Newmark will hold ministerial responsibility for services for young people.

Asheem Singh, director of policy at the chief executives body Acevo and a former adviser to the Cabinet Office, says that Newmark might not be well known in the charity sector, but he does have a reputation in Westminster. "He is someone who is well regarded in the Treasury, personable, numerate and an advocate of a classical-leaning economic policy.

"We've never really had a numbers person in this role and I think one of the things that charities and social enterprises will have to do over the next few years is articulate the economic case of why they are important to this country. No one has been able to get a grip on that question so far."

The Cabinet Office said in a statement that Newmark had "hit the ground running" during his first week, making a speech at a Westminster Hall debate on the National Citizen Service and visiting Cambridge to find out about the voluntary sector and social enterprises in the area.

Newmark said in a statement about his appointment that the role was "hugely exciting for me and I am looking forward to getting involved in the important projects currently under way, including social action campaigns with the NCS and social investment initiatives, including the Social Incubator Fund."

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