A cartoon by Steve Bell a while ago showed a masked robber in the Big Society Bank being told that they didn’t have any money as such – only bollocks. “Put the bollocks in a bag, and hurry,” says the robber.
The original of this cartoon was presented as a farewell gift yesterday to Nick Hurd, who resigned as minister for civil society in July, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Hurd was, of course, the apostle of social investment and one of his proudest achievements was the launch of the bank – actually called Big Society Capital – in 2012.
The ex-minister, who used to have another cartoon original in his office showing two boxers squaring up – big society vs big cuts – accepted the gift with good humour. Whether it will gain pride of place at Hurd Towers remains to be seen; someone suggested yesterday it was an ideal candidate for the wall of the loo.
The presentation took place at the NCVO’s annual summer party, where Hurd was described as the best minister the sector had ever had and he said his six years as shadow minister and minister had been the most rewarding of his career. It was a bit of a love-in.
What he wouldn’t miss, Hurd added, were the late night texts from sector leaders that at one point led his wife to suspect that he was having an affair with one Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO. He also mentioned a misdirected text from Debra Allcock Tyler of the Directory of Social Change, asking him to minister to her poorly dog. (A full account of this entertaining episode, with related political and philosophical musings, is the subject of her column in the October edition of Third Sector magazine.)
As the guests were thinning out Hurd’s successor, Brooks Newmark, blew in from a visit to Manchester with his previous day’s remark about charities sticking to their knitting still echoing around the media and the Twittersphere. Hurd had appealed for people to cut Newmark some slack because his heart was in the right place, and admitted that when he started in the job his own approach had been “superficial, borderline patronising.”
Newmark joked that he wished it was Groundhog Day and had left his knitting needles behind. He assured everyone that he really did “get it” about charities because he had been involved with them all his adult life. He also invited them to tell him what they considered to be the solutions to the country’s problems, which may have been a bit rash. The queue is probably snaking down Whitehall already.