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Cameron photographer leaves civil service

Nick Robinson | 11:19 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We may make mistakes but we are quick to correct them. So a key member of David Cameron's inner circle said to me last week. Now I know what he was referring to. The photographer, Andy Parsons, is losing the civil service job he just got and is returning to the Tory party's books. So too Nicky Woodhouse, the woman behind Webcameron.

Webcameron

Webcameron

When I interviewed the prime minister, last week I asked him about the symbolism of employing a "personal photographer" at public expense at a time of massive spending cuts.

It was a description he rejected - insisting that Mr Parsons was to be used across government and would save public money. However, it was the argument which, I'm told, has persuaded him to change his mind and force them back to the jobs they've only just left.

Quick is not, perhaps, a description for Team Cameron's response to this given the amount of column inches written about it. But they will hope that it's been quick enough to ensure that the story of the photographer you're paying for doesn't enter the public's mind as deeply and damagingly as the story about the chauffeur driving a car behind David Cameron's bike - an image which came up again and again in pre-election focus groups.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Ireland on the verge of collapse!

    Euroland about implode!

    The UK economy creeping back to recession!

    Troops dying in Afghanistan!

    DOES ANYONE REALLY CARE ABOUT THIS.......HELL NO.



  • Comment number 2.

    I'm with newsworthy at 1.

    In addition, I would point out that all new governments slip up on a few banana skins, particularly in their first few months in power. Remember, say, the Ecclestone affair?

  • Comment number 3.

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  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Glad to see that he has rethought this and acted on it. Bit of a non story though.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interestingly...


    https://waugh.standard.co.uk/2010/11/cams-vanity-photographer-and-videographer.html

    especially the part where Paul Waugh says "the civil service insisted...."

  • Comment number 7.

    Does this mean he'll backpedal on all other on-the-hoof policies?

  • Comment number 8.

    Nick,

    I can't really see what you are getting at here. The decision to employ a photographer wasn't a good one in my view but at least it has been reversed relatively quickly. I'd feel happier if they had not decided to do it in the first place, but the right decision was made in the end I think. I think your comment below is somewhat inappropriate :

    "Quick is not, perhaps, a description for Team Cameron's response to this given the amount of column inches written about it."

    "But they will hope that it's been quick enough to ensure that the story of the photographer you're paying for doesn't enter the public's mind as deeply and damagingly as the story about the chauffeur driving a car behind David Cameron's bike - an image which came up again and again in pre-election focus groups."
    ==================
    I can't see how this point is relevant at all. Was David Cameron on his bike "deeply damaging" ? Presumably David Cameron cycled to work as part of a keep fit regime. If his car follows him with ministerial boxes etc he needed but couldn't carry then so what ? Presumably if he sat in the car with them, then people such as yourself would accuse him of not being part of the governments "look after yourself" and keep fit initiatives. Would you prefer he went everywhere by car like John Prescott so as not to spoil the look of his wifes hair ???

    Pre-election focus groups ???? You really need to get out of the Westminster bubble a bit more - Given the countries deep problems, do you really think anyone is bothered about this ? Try your best to keep these things in the "public's mind" but I doubt if anyone cares.


  • Comment number 9.

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  • Comment number 10.

    jrp @ 2

    I agree, although the Ecclestone affair was not dismissed as a run-of-the-mill banana skin and a non story by the Opposition of the day.

    The hiring of Parsons and Woodhouse was a mildly embarrassing error, and its reversal is a mildly embarrassing climb-down. I wouldn't put it any more strongly than that.

  • Comment number 11.

    7. At 12:10pm on 16 Nov 2010, TheBlameGame wrote:
    =========================================================================
    I hope he will continue to reevaluate all decisions made as circumstances evolve. Perhaps this is what we have lacked over the last thirteen years or so... Someone who can realise that that they have made a mistake own up and correct it.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well that's his Blair moment sorted - unless they have any Hello exclusives planned.

  • Comment number 13.

    I wonder if he hired someone else to take a photo of him sacking Andy Parsons just for the record.....

  • Comment number 14.

    Disappointing. Whatever happened to conviction politics? To sticking to one's principles through thick and thin? If Osborne is clear in his own mind that Mr Cameron should have a dedicated personal photographer paid for out of public funds, then that is what he should have.

  • Comment number 15.

    10 pd65

    "...although the Ecclestone affair was not dismissed as a run-of-the-mill banana skin and a non story by the Opposition of the day."

    Quite so - because it wasn't by any means a non-story. It was (or at least appeared to be) the purchase of government policy through party donations. As such, it was well worth the opposition getting its teeth into. But I am still prepared (such being my extreme levels of generosity) to regard it as mainly a failure of story management, rather than evidence of corruption. It was, therefore, a huge banana skin, the black eye resulting from which, Blair rightly wore for months on end.

    By comparison, this photographer story is just a little stumble - "a mildly embarrassing error, and its reversal is a mildly embarrassing climb-down", as you put it yourself.

    [By the way, PD65, I'm not surprised to see you out and about, trolling for the trots, desperately trying to weaken those posts that don't "follow the Party line". But you don't do it very well - you missed a real opportunity with my 2, in fact. But I won't help you further!]

  • Comment number 16.

    The decision to employ them was a public relations disaster . So rather than allow it to cause more problems its been reversed . I m sure the acting leader of the Labour party will use her questions at PMQs to flogg it to death

  • Comment number 17.

    Too many Cameron toadies/apologists on here ! Its not about the act itself, but the message it sends out - one law for Cameron and his millionaire chums, another for the rest of us.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nick this is a nothing story . There are lots of things happening at the moment such as GMPs 25% staffing cuts and Labours desparate attempt to stop them loosing thier advantage at elections.

  • Comment number 19.

    Moral of the story.

    Always check with someone in higher authority than DC when accepting a job within the government. Any job being offered by DC may not exist and in the real world there is no guarantee of being reemployed at the organisation you have just left.

  • Comment number 20.

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  • Comment number 21.

    11. Chris London
    'I hope he will continue to reevaluate all decisions made as circumstances evolve. Perhaps this is what we have lacked over the last thirteen years or so... Someone who can realise that that they have made a mistake own up and correct it.'

    'As circumstances evolve'?
    Come now, Chris, if there hadn't been an outcry in the press and from the Opposition benches they'd still be on the payroll. It is a minor issue, let's hope he/they can recognise and rectify mistakes on bigger issues.

  • Comment number 22.

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  • Comment number 23.

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  • Comment number 24.

    @3 - totally irrelevant to bring up Prince William, and maybe you need to remind yourself of his mother's identity before making crass comments like that.

  • Comment number 25.

    Btw Nick, Not sure if the tax payer really likes the idea of paying for Andy Coulson so why's DC in the mood to listening to the tax payer, have a word!

    Meanwhile all those paid by the tax payer on looking after Mrs Cameron can stay. These people are doing a great job on making sure Mrs C always turns out fabulous.

  • Comment number 26.

    16#

    She'd be well advised not to, if this is anything to go by.

    Read the attachment to this blogpost, which is a letter from Gus O'Donnell to a Labour MP. It states that prior to the election, Labour had 24 such people within the same department on similar contracts to these two.

    https://blogs.journallive.co.uk/journalblogcentral/2010/11/labour-and-tories-put-dozens-o.html

  • Comment number 27.

    The Royal Navy traditionally provides cooks and stewards at Chequers. There is a member of the RN Photographic Branch currently serving in Ark Royal who will be at a loose end very soon, so why not make him No 10's official photographer at no extra cost to the taxpayer?

  • Comment number 28.

    I care, and I think the tory cheerleaders on here would care if it was labour doing this (and labour did do it, big time!).

    Lord snooty says this is a national emergency which justifies millions of decent people losing their jobs. He can not have his buddies with their snouts in the trough at the same time.

    The Times says SIXTEEN people previously paid for by tory or liberal central office are now paid for by a wage from the tax payer.

    One of these is the conservative party chairwoman, now paid by the tax payer as a 'minister without portfolio'

    Is this a 'national emergency' or isnt it?

    I'd like to see more about this.

  • Comment number 29.

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  • Comment number 30.

    I'm not quite sure why people think this is a non-story. Sure, I accept in most cases this wouldn't register on the radar but this is a government bleating on about cost-cutting. To take them seriously, we need to see they are doing the right thing and in my humble opinion that was not the right thing. It's not as if we need to be experts these days to take pictures. I'm pretty sure his chauffeur could have done a job, no disrespect to the professionals out there.

  • Comment number 31.

    A gigantic storm in a teacup...

    Does the PM need his own photographer? Well it doesn't seem too unreasonable to me; he is our Prime Minister after all, like it or not, so if anyone in Government is entitled to some vanity then it should perhaps be him, as he does represent us on the world stage (where image still sadly counts for a lot).

    The fact that this is 'spin' is clearly obvious: Dave has gained a few column inches from today's decision - some will view this as him "doing his bit" for the sake of austerity; others will view it as him being indecisive or simply pandering to the press.

    What it does achieve is detraction (or perhaps distraction) from the other, more glaringly important issues on the table at this time. Like, for instance, his current 'shellacking' (love that word) over a supposed lack of vision and confidence in the recent Guildhall speech.

    Clever old Dave; he's a PR and marketing man, you know?

    In short: nothing to see here; move along now people, move along please...

  • Comment number 32.

    While, many have commented that this is a little thing it does point to some real character, that is admitting it is wrong and stopping it.

    This is the measure that needs applying to the Harriers and Ark Royal as well since by trimming the RAF Tornados Government could achieve the same savings.

    Of more concern is that the decision on the photographer was made in the first place. This points to serious issues of judgement both by Cameron and the Cabinet Secretary who failed to stop such a clear waste of taxpayers money.

  • Comment number 33.

    I really do not care about this issue, it has about as much impact on me as the other story of Cameron being followed on his bike. Still I suppose it is always the media who decide what is important to the public.

    After two reports of real substance, it is a pity, we have dropped to this level again. There are so many issues now, which could be discussed and really effect ordinary peoples lives, that I am surprised this is the best report on offer.

    Feeding the public this nonsense just adds to the feeling that Britain will never get a sense of reality of what is important and what is not.

  • Comment number 34.

    26# Maybe your right with regards to the ammount of staff they had , but Im sue she will say that this was wrong, just like her vote for the Iraq war.

  • Comment number 35.

    Would cost us a lot less than his mortgage, I'd have thought. Perhaps a trade?

  • Comment number 36.

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  • Comment number 37.

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  • Comment number 38.

    35#

    Very droll. I'll see your "mortimax" and raise you an Elliot Morley plus Margaret Moran.

  • Comment number 39.

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  • Comment number 40.

    They're not PM though (38), are they Fubar? Neither of them.

  • Comment number 41.

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  • Comment number 42.

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  • Comment number 43.

    2 down, 24 other party political appointments to go...

  • Comment number 44.

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  • Comment number 45.

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  • Comment number 46.

    Paying photographers pales into insignificance compared with the cowardly and disgraceful payments about to be made to former inmates of Guantanamo whose reward should really have been the one time taken for granted reward for treason.

  • Comment number 47.

    Surely this is Labours Fault?

    :) :) :)

  • Comment number 48.

    14 saga

    Disappointing. Whatever happened to conviction politics? To sticking to one's principles through thick and thin? If Osborne is clear in his own mind that Mr Cameron should have a dedicated personal photographer paid for out of public funds, then that is what he should have.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I agree.

    Not a massive story in its own right, but there is a drip-drip effect from a series of changes of direction which seem to be driven by nothing more than bad media coverage.

    It's OK to be a pragmatist, but not to the exclusion of any philosophy at all. Let's hope Mrs T takes her copy of "The Constitution of Liberty" round to number 10 next time she calls in.

  • Comment number 49.

    It's not defamatory, JR (44), don't be so bizarre! Sounding like a tory troll with that.

  • Comment number 50.

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  • Comment number 51.

    This is a STORY, for all you Deficit Decievers, and Cameron Fanboy's!

    This goes to the very core of the man.

    Self Image before Public Interest.

    PR Spin before Truth and Justice.

    He got caught with his hands in the Cookie Jar and he's had to put them back.

    But never mind, we are all in this togather....and oh yes it's all Labours fault! YAWN!

  • Comment number 52.

    Well we can't talk about the Opposition's strategies as we're still waiting to learn what they are. So I suppose David Cameron's photographer will have to subsitute for the time being.

    Even the doyen of political commentators, Laura K, had to content herself today with commenting on the party leader's responses to the royal engagement - welcome and happy news though that is.

    Not an exciting day for politics methinks.

  • Comment number 53.

    42#

    Whys that?

    Because abuse of power (and thinking that by membership of the political class you are somehow bulletproof) is abuse of power, regardless of whether its the PM or not.

  • Comment number 54.

    #45 Saga

    Busy trying to claim the moral high ground, whilst ignoring more weighty matters, eh?

    I don't recall you applying that high moral tone to either of the last two incumbents of No 10.

    Begs the question, who's better to lead, a human (with all the inherent faults) or some paragon of virtue, who probably doesn't exist? Nobody who ever did anything, whatever it was, didn't make a mistake. the trick is to spot, correct it, and learn from it.

    To err is human, to forgive is divine.

    To put it another way, the person who claims never to have made a mistake has probably never done anything, or is a liar.

  • Comment number 55.

    As I said before (31), who cares??

    Clearly not folks here, as the debate has quickly descended to the usual Left/Right catfight (for the record: "my dad is tougher than all of yours...").

    It's just a distraction from whatever issues Cameron wishes to sidestep in the press at the moment. I mean seriously: the issue of the photographer was long dead and buried, media-wise, so why else would he want to resurrect it?

    As a sign of "we're in all it together" it's pretty feeble, and as an admission of being strong enough to right his own wrongs it's equally pathetic... try handing over your off-shore accounts to HMRC, Mr Cameron and Osborne, if you really want to show willing.

    So the PM has at best a small win from this (those who perceive it as a sign of honesty and/or austerity), though perhaps more to lose from raking over old ground. So why do it, other than to detract from other issues?

    Today may yet be a good day for the government to bury bad news, if this is all we have left to debate.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

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  • Comment number 59.

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  • Comment number 60.

    I may not care much either way, but what does trouble me though is that since he has an iphone, which will take all the necessary pics, why doesn't he use that?
    Regards, etc.

  • Comment number 61.

    fubar @ 53

    Oh okay then.

    For me, unethical behaviour from the PM is a considerably more serious matter than same from your "ordinary" politician - have to agree to differ on this one.

  • Comment number 62.

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  • Comment number 63.

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  • Comment number 64.

    62
    Fubar - two prominent members of the last Conservative government ended up in prison. I don't think either side has a monopoly on malpractice.

  • Comment number 65.

    What coded message are you really trying to say Nick? We already know that politicians use similar show- business and advertising tactics to sell ideas. Conservative C,,,,,,'s Chameleon Character can Carefully Camouflage his Carbon Capers. The new slogan should be, 'We Can Hire and Fire to Our Hearts Desire.' Were these jobs advertised as, only short term supply work?

  • Comment number 66.

    62#

    yes, I know they did pd and there should have been others from all sides of the house who should have gone down in the meantime, but somehow didnt.

    Quite how they avoided such charges, let alone sentences, the moderators will not allow me to speculate. See 62#.

    I've already said that neither side has a monopoly on malpractise, but none of them have a monopoly on the moral highground either. So, lets just pull the train for that particular destination into the buffers right now, shall we?

    Anyway. Enough for one day. Time for home.

  • Comment number 67.

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  • Comment number 68.

    What price do we have to pay for a photographer taking a picture of David Cameron leaving 10, Downing Street for the last time?
    Whatever you decide it can never be enough.
    It can never be soon enough.
    Where shall I send my contribution please?

  • Comment number 69.

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  • Comment number 70.

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  • Comment number 71.

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  • Comment number 72.

    What I want to know, is what defines these left, right, issues, because to me it is just nonsense. Who decides for instance if a policy is right or left. Surely the the only way a policy should be decided on is whether it is necessary and if it is going to work. For goodness knows how many years, this divide has been present, to what end, what use is it. Whether you are right or left, all you should care about is seeing Britain back in some kind of working order economically or we all suffer. To me, I would take a policy from wherever it came from, if I thought it would help.

    No wonder Politicians always win, they know they only have to shout, left, right or centre and you all divide up into camps. For goodness sake who cares about it anymore.

    The Cameron photographer issue is not important because it will make no difference to how the Government performs which is the important thing. There were many such issues as these under Labour, but it was not the reason they were voted out and it will not be the reason Cameron is voted out either. It is time the media and the public, left or right focused on the real problems, which are our society and the economy.

    The British moan too much and expect too much, that is why other Countries have run so far ahead of the UK. If they ever want to even compete in catching up, it is about time they put some effort into doing so, instead of whinging about what they may lose all the time.

  • Comment number 73.

    Well, Nick Robinson. Perhaps the Prime Minister may want to consider his Head of Commmunications at the heart of No.10 Downing Street too?

  • Comment number 74.

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  • Comment number 75.

    I live in a part of the Country where nothing much happens and if the odd moggie gets stuck up a tree it makes the local Newspaper's headlines.

    The absence of reported muggings, burglaries and murders in the local news makes me feel good.

    So a special thanks to Nick for today's blog. If this is all we have to worry about then the UK must be doing OK.

    Or perhaps our political editor has been too long in the company of the political classes and so has no concept of what really matters to the electorate?

  • Comment number 76.

    How about...
    A click at the right time saves nine.

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    Susan

    I suspect that all the three main political parties are more than happy to have this story top the political agenda as good policies are very thin on the ground. I have noticed over the last few months that some of the coalitions aims have been diluted or chiselled down by the various apparatus of the state in particular libertarianism and freedoms. Cameron eschewed excessive police protection and such like. Now they say the Met Police needs SAS like training to shoot terrorists - seems a bit odd as they seem to be very good at it already. The war on terror is a lucrative business and the lobby groups will have been very active behind the scenes, a fact which Mr Robinson will be very aware of.

    What started out as something new has now morphed in more of the same albeit under a different name, colours and characters. Disillusionment does not even begin to describe what I think about this new government. The only hope is that the Euro and Eu cease to exist as that would force a UK government of the day to actually do the job it was elected to do.

  • Comment number 80.

    Lets be clear, labour did this jobs for the boys thing as well and were rightly criticised.

    But don't forget this is lord snooty, who is telling us we are in the middle of a 'national emergency' so serious it justifies millions of people losing their jobs. This type of conduct in such circumstances is disgraceful.

    The Times reports that a total of SIXTEEN people have been moved from the payroll of conservative/liberal central offices onto to the tax payers wage bill.

    Nick - I'd love to see more on the others.

    (This post is well within all rules mods - so if the person blanking other peoples posts does so with this please investigate/respond with regard to them making malicious complaints)

  • Comment number 81.

    jrp @ 78

    No, not a good topic for either party. Which was obviously my point at 64.

    You got there in the end.

  • Comment number 82.

    Here's question on this topic of jobs at tax payer expense, no names mentioned, not even the party in question.

    A political party may well think it is good value to pay for an 'image consultant' for wife of a senior politician. In this media dominated world, I agree.

    Should that political party be able to have the image consultant paid for by the tax payer???

  • Comment number 83.

    Wow, what a letdown after the previous “we are all going to hell in a handcart” blogs.

    The whole Cameron photographer thing was a non starter when he took him on & its s non starter now he’s gone.

    Can't see it changing my life one way or another - just another example of Cameron backing down under pressure (although from whom I'm not quite sure).

    A case of “Nothing to see here, move along” I think.

  • Comment number 84.

    The amount of hype this story has prompted is a clear indicator that politics has become overly controlled by media who are intent on portraying politicians in a bad light. It appears to have little or no relevance to how Cameron actually runs the country.

 

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