Damian Hinds, Britain’s new Education Secretary, has gained an unfair reputation for being boringly reliable. “No one, as far as I can see,” wrote the Conservative commentator Andrew Gimson last week, “has yet managed to write an exciting article about Hinds.”
Those who have taken a look at Hinds’s YouTube channel – which, admittedly, has not been updated since 2010 – may feel this sells him rather short. There you will find an engaging clip of Hinds teaching English in Rwanda, striding around the classroom in a rugby shirt as he leads a rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. He later introduces his students to the Times’s “Polygon” puzzle.
The Rwanda work – part of a Tory party humanitarian project – is close to Hinds’s heart: apparently, he went to Rwanda as the first stop on his honeymoon. That’s typical of the man, according to a former staffer. “He’s a wonderful guy,” I’m told. “A genuinely empathetic man with an ethic of service.”
Others praise the East Hampshire MP’s political abilities. “He’s impressive,” says ConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman, “in that he’s obviously intelligent and focused and considered, and has a decisiveness about him.” Goodman, who predicted Hinds’s ascent to the Cabinet two months before it happened, observes: “He’s the sort of quiet, effective, popular operator who gets promoted.”
Hinds, who is 48, is a Mass-going Catholic with a strong social conscience. “He lives and breathes Catholic social teaching,” the ex-staffer says. Some of his longstanding concerns, like credit unions, reflect his commitment to helping the vulnerable. ConservativeHome has described him as a “liberal Catholic”, though only, Goodman says, on the basis of one vote: Hinds supported the same-sex marriage act in 2013.
Hinds was also a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions during debates over the two-child policy, which cut off certain benefits to couples with three or more kids. (Hinds, himself married with three children, called the measure “fair and proportionate”.)
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