Conservative MP Brooks Newmark has said he has been “a complete fool” following a sex scandal that forced him to resign as a government minister.
Newmark, 56, is alleged to have shared a sexual image of himself with a journalist who had been posing as a young female activist on Twitter in an article published by the Sunday Mirror.
The Tory MP, who quit his ministerial role on Saturday after learning of the scoop, told the BBC: “I have no one to blame but myself. I have hurt those I care about most.”
He added: “I am so, so sorry. But I just need time with my family.”
Newmark has been the MP for Braintree in Essex since 2005 and was named minister of Civil Society in July of this year.
Following the revelations, it was reported by Buzzfeed that the journalist also contacted a series of other politicians and also sent them flattering and flirtatious tweets. Although some replied, there are no suggestions any of their messages contained inappropriate content.
The fake Twitter account has since been deleted, but the methods used to acquire the story have led some to question whether the 'sting' could be considered a fishing expedition to try and ensnare politicians.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) editors’ code of practice states: "Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications."
The editors' code goes on to say: “Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”
The Sunday Mirror said that the journalist, with whom the paper was working on a freelance basis, was carrying out an undercover probe into claims by sources that MPs were using social media networks to meet women.
For the sting operation against Mr Newmark, a male journalist had reportedly set up a Twitter profile under the name of “Sophie Wittams” and used a picture of a blonde woman. The bio read: “Twenty-something Tory PR girl.”
The identity of the girl whose picture was used has not yet been confirmed, although it is widely thought that the image derives from the Instagram account of a Swedish model.
It is not known whether the woman shown in the picture agreed to the use of her image for the sting operation.
During their increasingly personal conversations, Newmark and “Sophie” then allegedly exchanged provocative pictures using the instant messaging service WhatsApp.
Newmark then asked to be sent an explicit picture “without your hands in the way and legs parted,” it is claimed, adding that he offered to “send you something in return – that way we each have a secret.”
One of the suggestive images used by the journalist was taken from another Twitter user's account, according to the Sunday Times. It is also unknown whether this woman consented to her image being used.
In his resignation statement on Saturday, Newmark 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.”
Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East, has been named as Newmark’s replacement at the Cabinet Office.
Newmark’s resignation was made on the eve of the last Conservative party conference before next year’s general election.
Hours earlier, fellow Tory MP Mark Reckless defected to UKIP, forcing a by-election and plunging the party into crisis.Reuse content