Conservative Diary

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David Cameron's photographer is taken off the public payroll and returns to CCHQ

By Jonathan Isaby

Today's Evening Standard reveals:

David Cameron has performed a U-turn by removing photographer Andrew Parsons and videographer Nicky Woodhouse from the public payroll, the Evening Standard can reveal. The Prime Minister reacted to intense controversy over the so-called “vanity jobs” by ruling that the appointments “sent the wrong signal” at a time of spending cuts.

Mr Cameron still believes he was in the right to bring the pair into Whitehall and that they would have actually saved taxpayers money by improving efficiency. But with immediate effect, their £35,000 salaries will be paid from Conservative Party funds and they will quit their desks at the Cabinet Office and move into the party's Campaign Headquarters at Millbank.

My understanding is that the Prime Minister's Office were in fact reticent about putting Mr Parsons and Ms Woodhouse on the public payroll in the first place, but that it was civil servants who encouraged the move, since as non-civil servants the pair would not be able to have access to certain events and meetings or have their work used by government departments.

As it is, they return to CCHQ and will be paid again by the party - and will therefore be subject to those restrictions which making them civil servants aimed to avoid.

However, there is no question that with the impending Whitehall cuts and job losses, the perception of these appointments had been toxic - even if the truth is that their employment could have been more efficient for the taxpayer in the long run.

It will not go unnoticed, of course, that this news has been announced at the same time as Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement, which is now dominating the news channels...

2.45pm update: Downing Street sources say that any suggestion that there was an attempt to "bury bad news" today is "completely untrue" and that it is a shame that political opponents are trying to "tarnish a happy day" by making the "seedy" suggestion.

> Colleen Graffy: A picture is worth a thousand words, so there's every reason why David Cameron should have an official photographer


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