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.