Thursday News Review

Cameron under fire for “vanity” hires

The news that a photographer Andy Parsons, who once worked for the Conservatives, has been put on the civil service payroll, seems to fit a pattern of behaviour over the last few months. Not just by the Conservatives, but the Liberal Democrats too. This would be a serious issue at the best of times, but is especially so at a time when nearly all parts of the civil service are having to make huge cuts. In addition to Mr Parsons there are two other Conservative cases: Nicky Woodhouse, a Conservative film-maker who was responsible for the internet propaganda service Web-Cameron, and who started work this Monday making films for the government. And Rishi Saha, who worked as head of new media for the Conservatives during the election campaign, and is now deputy director of communications in the Cabinet Office (and effectively head of digital communications, in charge of the websites run by the Cabinet Office and Number 10). – Michael Crick, BBC

DAVID CAMERON has taken on two new workers to improve his image – as he prepares to cut half a million public sector jobs. The PM has put Andrew Parsons, who documented his election campaign, on the public payroll as his personal photographer. And a web producer has also been recruited to the civil service to sharpen Cameron’s online messages. Labour leader Ed Miliband said the appointments cast doubt on Cameron’s judgment at a time when he was “telling everybody to tighten their belts”. At Prime Minister’s questions, Miliband mocked the PM’s claim to be making “hard choices” as a result of tight public finances. – Daily Record

Downing Street sources insisted that the appointments would ultimately save money for the taxpayer as they would end the need to hire expensive freelance photographers and film crews. Both Mr Parsons and Ms Woodhouse would work across all departments, documenting the work of dozens of ministers, they said. Two Labour MPs wrote to Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, yesterday questioning whether proper procedures had been followed in making the appointments. Michael Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, said: “Why is it that when the Government is putting half a million people out of work, Mr Cameron feels the need to recruit someone previously employed by the Conservative Party to be his personal photographer?” – The Independent

Mr Miliband said that it was all very well talking about taking tough choices but the prime minister had just put his own personal photographer on the civil service payroll. Mr Cameron did not deny this. In fact, he didn’t reply at all. A rumour went round that the photographer would be allowed to take all pictures of Mr Cameron in Downing Street. Newspaper photographers who might show him smelling his own armpits would be banned. Why not? He could have his own personal interviewer, too. Rather like the way the late Robert Maxwell toured eastern Europe asking various tyrants what was the secret of their immense popularity – right up to the time they were shot. He already has his own personal MPs, whose job it is to ask him tough questions, such as: “Is he aware how marvellously his policies are being received by all voters, even those who can expect to be out of work for a decade?” – The Guardian

West Bromwich MP Tom Watson has demanded an explanation for Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to hire an “official photographer” while public services across the country are being forced to make spending cuts. Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) has asked why Andrew Parsons – a photographer who previously worked for the Conservative Party – is now employed as a civil servant. And it has emerged that the Government has also employed a website manager who previously worked for the Conservative Party, at the taxpayer’s expense. Nicky Woodhouse, who produced online videos for the Tories, is now working for the Government. She was responsible for the “Webcameron” videos which showcased Mr Cameron speaking to voters or in his family home, while the party was in opposition. – The Birmingham Post

Consumer credit bill gets second reading

PROPOSED legislation by Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy to tackle “legal loan sharks” has secured a second reading in Parliament. Ms Creasy, of the Labour opposition, tabled the bill at the House of Commons earlier this afternoon under the “ten minute rule”, which allows backbenchers to suggest new laws. The ‘Consumer Credit (Regulation and Advice)’ bill proposes a cap on the interest that can be charged on loans and on late payment and default fees. It also calls for a levy on the sale of credit cards and store cards in order to fund debt advice services. – Waltham Forrest Guardian

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