Downing Street has tried to defend using taxpayers’ cash to fund a photoshoot of Boris Johnson’s dog playing in the snow – by claiming the pooch is “working” for the government.
The prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed that no fewer than three photographers are now paid to work for No.10, with two employed as civil servants and one as a special adviser.
The special adviser, Andrew Parsons, already has a part-time salary that works out at more than £100,000 a year, while another photographer started work last week on wages of up to £60,635 a year.
A third seconded from the Ministry of Defence is also paid an as-yet undisclosed sum that is expected to be tens of thousands of pounds.
The row over Johnson’s “vanity snaps” reignited on Wednesday when No.10 used its Flickr account to post photos of his dog Dilyn playing in the snow in his Downing Street back garden. Other photos of Larry the No.10 cat have also been taken.
Asked directly why the taxpayer should pay for such photos of pets, the PM’s spokesperson said: “These photographers document the work of the government, as well as the work inside Number 10. [...] It’s obviously important that we record the activity of the government.
“They document the work of not just the PM but the whole of the Cabinet,”
The photographer who took the snaps of the dog has taken photos of several No.10 press conferences, including the PM delivering a coronavirus address to the nation.
She also takes photos for other government departments. An online profile describes her as “MOD photographer for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson”.
Andrew Parsons has long taken Johnson’s personal photos ever since Johnson was Mayor of London, and has been paid by the Tory party in the past for his work in election campaigns.
His appointment as a special adviser in 2019 prompted criticism, not least as press photographers have traditionally taken photos of the PM in No.10, as well as other ministers.
The PM’s spokesperson said: “We have three photographers at No.10. As you are aware, we have an MoD photographer as one of those three, you’ve seen recently that we’ve recruited a cross-government photographer, and you all know Andy Parsons.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The public will be rightly questioning why there is apparently no limit on the money that can be found to pay for a coterie of vanity photographers for the Prime Minister.
“Instead of spending more taxpayers’ money on photographers, the Prime Minister should prioritise supporting hard-pressed families and the children who are going hungry during this crisis.”
One Labour source added: “The Government has made such a dog’s dinner of issues from the border response to kids’ education, Dilyn would be a marked improvement and probably waste less taxpayers’ cash.”