Married dad-of-five Brooks Newmark, 56, who co-founded campaign group Women2Win, stepped down as Minister for Civil Society yesterday
A Tory minister leading David Cameron’s drive for more women in politics exchanged X-rated photos with an undercover reporter posing as a female party activist.
Married dad-of-five Brooks Newmark, 56, who co-founded campaign group Women2Win, stepped down as Minister for Civil Society yesterday.
The MP for Braintree, Essex swapped sexually explicit images and asked to meet the reporter, who was posing as a young Tory PR girl called Sophie while investigating the alleged inappropriate use of social media by MPs.
Newmark initiated a private message conversation online and, during flirtatious chats and photo exchanges, sent a graphic snap exposing himself while wearing a pair of paisley pyjamas.
During a late-night chat with the undercover reporter, who had sent him an explicit picture supposedly of “Sophie”, Newmark asked for a more explicit picture “without your hands in the way and legs parted”. He then said: “I will send you something in return – that way we each have a secret.”
The sleaze scandal will send shock waves through Downing Street as the Tories state their case for re-election at their party conference this week.
It heaps fresh embarrassment on the Prime Minister who faces accusations of sexism after failing to attract women to take up leading political positions.
The male reporter, a freelance journalist who passed the information to the Sunday Mirror, was carrying out an undercover probe into claims by sources that MPs were using social media networks to meet women.
Posing as a “twenty-something Tory PR girl” called Sophie Wittams, he set up a Twitter account featuring a profile picture of an attractive blonde female and began following several MPs.
After posting a string of innocuous public tweets about tennis, Sophie was then followed by Newmark, who sent her a direct private message on July 6 saying: “Glad you appreciate my humour and how seriously I take my sport!”
He initiated a lighthearted chat about his “mundane” political tweets and asked her to follow him on Facebook.
Three days later Newmark invited Sophie to a Women2Win event and told her to “feel free to drop by Parliament anytime for a chat”.
He then said it would be easier for them to communicate over the phone via text messages and gave her his personal mobile number.
The pair continued to chat on the networking site Whatsapp where they initially discussed Sophie going on blind dates with other men.
On the evening of July 16, after Sophie told him she was lying in bed, Newmark wrote: “By the way I have no idea what you look like so post a pic to me on Whatsapp so I know what you look like when I meet you.”
In reply to a picture Sophie sent after midnight, the balding MP sent a picture of himself sitting on his bed and wearing a white T-shirt.
He forwarded another of himself below the waist as he reclined on his bed watching television in a pair of dark blue and red paisley pyjamas.
Sophie wrote: “Should I send another pic that is the question.” Newmark replied: “Wasn’t that the deal?”
Sophie asked how far he was willing to go. He wrote: “That’s very brave talk.”The reporter then sent a more intimate image, supposedly of Sophie, and Newmark wrote back saying: “You took my breath away!”
He then sent her a close-up of him with his hand covering his bare chest.
The pair discussed taking “it to the next level” before Sophie replied with an explicit naked picture and asked him to promise not to show anyone.
Newmark wrote: “You must be kidding! I’d never do that. But resend without your hand in the way and legs parted and I will send something in return. That way we both have a secret.” He added: “Assuming it meets my request and I reciprocate you MUST swear on a stack of Bibles you won’t show pics as I promise not to show pics of you? OK?”
The MP then sent a graphic image of himself to the reporter.
It comes as Westminster faces angry calls to crackdown on a culture of lechery and sexism in the wake of several sex scandals including accusations made against Lib Dem Lord Rennard by female party members.
Ministers are bound by a strict code of conduct requiring them to uphold “the highest standards of propriety”. Two days after sending the explicit snap he sent another message saying: “I want a standing full body shot but you can cover up any modest bits you wish.”
The Government is already reeling over the defection of MP Mark Reckless to Ukip
The following day he messaged again, saying: “While you are clubbing think of me at a branch fish and chip supper in one of my villages! By the way it’s your turn tonite – so inspire me as per my instructions of last nite.”
The pair then continued to message each other about politics and a charity trip Newmark took to Rwanda, until the start of August. In a final Whatsapp message, the MP wrote: “Have made sure 6th and 7th are free in my diary.
“So Miss Sophie did one of your blind dates work out and have you abandoned all thoughts of meeting me for tea? Hasn’t curiosity got the better of you. Come on weather is spectacular at the moment and I’m certainly curious to meet you. And I promise I won’t bite!”
Yesterday while campaigning in Clacton, Essex, ahead of the October 9 by-election there, he sent a text to the reporter asking “Sophie” if she would like to meet him at this week’s Conservative Party Conference, writing: “Afternoons fairly full with speaking engagements but around late evenings. Promise we’ll meet up though. X.”
American-born Newmark, who has two homes including a £2.2million property in posh Belgravia in central London, regularly attends social events with his wife Lucy, with whom he has four sons and a daughter, and pal Boris Johnson. He has also been snapped at Tory functions with bigwigs including Baroness Thatcher.
He owns the investment firm Telesis Management. In 2009 his wealth was estimated at £3.2million. Political responsibilities include overseeing charities including the Girl Guides movement.
He has been an outspoken campaigner for female involvement in politics. On Friday, using his Twitter handle @tweetbrooks, the MP wrote: “67% of girls 11-21 think there aren’t enough female MPs.”
He also posted a picture link to Girl Guiding campaign Girls Matter, which is calling for a guarantee that women will be represented equally in Parliament.
He sparked a furious row earlier this month when he said charities should stay out of politics and “stick to their knitting”.
Elected MP for Braintree in 2005 he co-founded Women2Win with Baroness Jenkin, wife of Tory MP Bernard, that year.
The Tory conference kicks off with a W2W drinks party tonight, with guests including Home Secretary Theresa May, and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
Newmark was reportedly sacked as party whip last year after Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin, lost patience with his tweets, which included one about whether to watch Downton Abbey or Spooks.
Mr Newmark reportedly said last night: “I am so sorry.”
But when first contacted with the allegations yesterday he denied ever having heard of Sophie. The Sunday Mirror then sent the allegations to Downing Street, which responded with a statement saying Newmark was stepping down and would be replaced by Rob Wilson as Minister for Civil Society.
Former Tory whip Michael Fabricant, referring to party colleague Mark Reckless’s switch to Ukip, yesterday tweeted: “Well, the good news is that Brooks Newmark will not be defecting to Ukip.”
David Cameron refused to comment as he arrived in Birmingham yesterday.
by Vincent Moss, Matthew Drake