Saturday 18 November 2017

Minister quits as Conservatives rocked by sex scandal

Brooks Newmark and the fictional Sophie Wittams UPPA/ Twitter
Brooks Newmark and the fictional Sophie Wittams UPPA/ Twitter
Cabinet Office Minister Brooks Newmark who has resigned as Minister for Civil Society over a story that is to be published in a Sunday newspaper
David Cameron and his wife Samantha at the conference in Birmingham.
Tory defector Mark Reckless (left) and Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Tim Ross

BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron was plunged into a double crisis after one of his ministers resigned over a sex scandal and another MP defected to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) at the weekend.

As the curtain went up on the Conservative Party's final conference before next year's election, Brooks Newmark quit as the minister for civil society after he was caught sending an explicit photograph of himself to someone he believed was a woman over the internet.

Sources said Mr Newmark sent the image to a woman posing as a user of a social networking website as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation. It emerged yesterday that a series of other prominent politicians were contacted by a reporter posing as a young female Conservative activist.

The classic tabloid newspaper "sting" involved a fictional account on the social networking site Twitter, with a freelance journalist purporting to be blonde "Sophie Wittams" who was described as a "twenty-something Tory PR girl".

The account has now been deleted but some traces of it remain on the internet showing how flattery and flirting were used in an attempt to lure male MPs into communicating with the fictional woman.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) editors' code of practice, which governs how journalists should behave, says: "Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications."

The revelations will be particularly damaging for the prime minister's effort to win more support from women. Mr Newmark is co-chairman and founder of the Tory campaign, "Women2Win", which aims to get more women elected to parliament.

Mr Newmark, the MP for Braintree, Essex, said he had been "a complete fool" and said he needed "time with my family".

"I have been a complete fool. I have no one to blame but myself. I have hurt those I care about most," he told ITV News.

"I am so so sorry. But I just need time with my family."

In an earlier announcement the MP said: "I have decided to resign as minister for civil society having been notified of a story to be published in a Sunday newspaper.

"I would like to appeal for the privacy of my family to be respected at this time. I remain a loyal supporter of this government as its long-term economic plan continues to deliver for the British people."

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron had accepted Mr Newmark's resignation and Rob Wilson, a former aide to George Osborne, would take his place.

Mr Newmark (56) a married father of five, apologised after the scandal came to light.

Graphic

He initiated a private message conversation on a social networking website and sent a graphic picture exposing himself while wearing a pair of paisley pyjamas, according to the 'Mirror' newspaper.

He sent a text message to an undercover reporter on Saturday, asking if she would like to meet him at the party conference. "Afternoons fairly full with speaking engagements but around late evenings. Promise we'll meet up though. X," the MP wrote.

The revelations infuriated the Conservative Party leadership. A Tory source said Mr Newmark's behaviour was "unacceptable". "It is indefensible. It is quite right that he has stepped down," he said.

There was no answer last night at either Mr Newmark's London home, in Belgravia, or his constituency home, near Braintree. The scandal came hours after Mark Reckless, the MP for Rochester and Strood, announced on television that he was defecting to UKIP. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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