David Cameron U-turns on personal photographers

"Vanity" appointments will no longer be paid with public money, following outcry.

David Cameron has performed a U-turn by removing his personal photographer and videographer from the public payroll.

According to the Evening Standard, Andrew Parsons and Nicky Woodhouse will now be paid their £35,000 salaries from Conservative Party funds rather than the public purse, with immediate effect. They will also leave their desks at the Cabinet Office and be transferred to CCHQ in Millbank.

In opposition, Parsons was Cameron's personal photographer, and controlled media images of him. Woodhouse made the WebCameron videos. Both were supposedly hired by Whitehall to work across government and for all ministers.

However, the so-called vanity appointments -- in addition to the Camerons' two stylists, also employed as civil servants -- rankled at a time when the government is planning 500,000 public sector job cuts.

Reportedly, the Prime Minister has conceded that the appointments "sent the wrong signal", given the timing. He will be hoping that he has acted quickly enough to nip criticism in the bud; serious damage was done to his image several years ago by the revelation that a car carrying his papers was driving behind his bike as he cycled to work.

However, it is also worth remembering that these two are not the only slightly dubious civil service appointments -- Anna-Maren Ashford and Isabel Spearman remain on the public payroll. It was astute for Cameron to act on criticism, but this story could still rumble on.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Paul Nuttall is like his party: sad, desperate and finished

The party hope if they can survive until March 2019, they will grow strong off disillusionment with Brexit. They may not make it until then. 

It’s a measure of how far Ukip have fallen that while Theresa May faced a grilling over her social care U-Turn and Jeremy Corbyn was called to account over his past, the opening sections of Andrew Neill’s interview with Paul Nuttall was about the question of whether or not his party has a future.

The blunt truth is that Ukip faces a battering in this election. They will be blown away in the seats they have put up a candidate in and have pre-emptively retreated from numerous contests across the country.

A party whose leader in Wales once said that climate change was “ridiculous” is now the victim of climate change itself. With Britain heading out of the European Union and Theresa May in Downing Street, it’s difficult to work out what the pressing question in public life to which Ukip is the answer.

Their quest for relevance isn’t helped by Paul Nuttall, who at times tonight cast an unwittingly comic figure. Pressing his case for Ukip’s burka ban, he said earnestly: “For [CCTV] to work, you have to see people’s faces.” It was if he had intended to pick up Nigel Farage’s old dogwhistle and instead put a kazoo to his lips.

Remarks that are, written down, offensive, just carried a stench of desperation. Nuttall’s policy prescriptions – a noun, a verb, and the most rancid comment underneath a Mail article – came across as a cry for attention. Small wonder that senior figures in Ukip expect Nuttall to face a move on his position, though they also expect that he will see off any attempt to remove him from his crown.

But despite his poor performance, Ukip might not be dead yet. There was a gleam of strategy amid the froth from Nuttall in the party’s pledge to oppose any continuing payment to Brussels as part of the Brexit deal, something that May and Corbyn have yet to rule out.

If May does manage to make it back to Downing Street on 8 June, the gap between campaign rhetoric – we’ll have the best Brexit, France will pay for it – and government policy – we’ll pay a one-off bill and continuing contributions if need be – will be fertile territory for Ukip, if they can survive as a going concern politically and financially, until March 2019.

On tonight’s performance, they’ll need a better centre-forward than Paul Nuttall if they are to make it that far. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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