Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A 'personal photographer' for the PM

In PMQs today Ed Miliband attacked David Cameron for hiring a personal photographer to be paid for by the taxpayer. The Prime Minister hit back by outlining how much the government has reduced spending on 'spin' since the election. The way the Government has handed responsibility back to the Civil Service from the hands of Special Advisers, saving money in the process, should be applauded.

Sadly, for Mr Cameron, that achievement in reducing government communications budgets will not resonate with the public when all they will see is £34,000 being paid for a personal photographer for the PM. The infamous husky photo-op trip to Norway in 2006 damaged his standing with the public and this row may well remind people of that. Labour will no doubt try and get the 'David Cameron obsessed with photo-ops' narrative going again. It might well work, as lazy Lobby journalists like nothing more than an easy to apply, all encompassing, narrative: think Tony Blair and 'spin'.

There is one point of substance on this however. When George Osborne set out the framework for last month's spending review, one requirement was to:
  • Require departments to submit their initial plans...and demonstrate that they meet a tough new set of criteria to deliver value for money. The criteria cover questions such as: is the activity being funded essential to the Government’s priorities, does the Government need to fund the activity, and can it be provided more efficiently?
I wonder if these criteria were applied to the appointment of Andy Parsons?

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