UK Politics

PM David Cameron appoints government film-maker

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Media captionEd Miliband: "We're all in this together - just a little bit more to the right Nick"

The woman behind David Cameron's personal video blog has been given a civil service job as the government's official film-maker.

Nicky Woodhouse, who ran the Webcameron site, was appointed on Monday.

This was the same day as former Conservative Party stills photographer Andy Parsons got a civil service job.

Labour said Mr Parsons' appointment was wrong in difficult economic times, but the prime minister said he had cut government spending on communications.

Both appointees have been hired on short-term or fixed-term contracts which allow the government to take on staff without publicly advertising positions. Downing Street refused to reveal how much the two were being paid, although the government does not publish civil service salaries below £58,200.

'Airbrushing'

During prime minister's questions, Labour leader Ed Miliband told MPs: "I can't believe he is talking about hard choices this week - because who has he chosen to put on the civil service pay roll? His own personal photographer.

"There is good news for the prime minister - apparently he does a nice line in airbrushing."

Continuing the mockery, he said: "You can picture the cabinet photo - 'We are all in this together - just a little bit more to the right Nick'."

He added: "Is it really a wise judgement when he is telling everyone to tighten their belts when he is putting his own, personal photographer on the civil service payroll?"

Mr Cameron ridiculed Mr Miliband's question, saying: "Is this what his opposition leadership has been reduced to?"

A laughing prime minister accused the Labour leader of failing to "engage in the issues", adding that the coalition had cut by "two thirds" the amount spent on communications, before adding a joke of his own at the expense of former prime minister Gordon Brown, who was once claimed to have thrown a mobile phone in anger.

"We will be spending a bit less on replacing mobile phones as well, in No 10 Downing Street," he told a noisy House of Commons.

Webcameron, which Ms Woodhouse produced, was a website dedicated to giving Mr Cameron's weekly take on political events.

It ran from 2006 until this year's general election.

Mr Parsons came to prominence during the trip by Mr Cameron to Norway in 2006.

The then opposition leader was photographed driving a dog-drawn sled, in an effort to highlight the importance of fighting global warming.

Mr Parsons has since snapped Mr Cameron at home with wife Samantha and behind-the-scenes at party conferences and and in Downing Street, but there are places where he was restricted from working as a non-government employee.

'Totally reasonable'

Labour MP Tom Watson told the BBC he had written to Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell to ask whether correct civil service appointments procedures had been followed.

He said: "The question for David Cameron is - has the civil service code been abused."

Mr Watson said it was the "ultimate vanity" for the government to take on an official photographer at a time when thousands of police were facing redundancy as part of the coalition's spending cuts programme.

But a Cabinet Office spokesman said : "There is long-standing provision within the recruitment rules for departments to bring in staff on short-term contracts. While employed as a civil servant they are subject to the full requirements of the Civil Service Code, including political impartiality.

"There are also strict rules about involvement in political activities. Civil servants come from a range of backgrounds and employment. What's important is that when individuals are working for us their behaviour is consistent with the civil service code."

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 live, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said of Mr Cameron: "He is the prime minister of this country. He does need an official photographer. Of course he does. For goodness sake.

"It is for official duties, not private duties. He's not going with him on his holidays to Cornwall. It is for things like when the French President comes over.

"Times are tough but we do need someone who takes photographs at official occasions, I don't think that's unreasonable. To be honest, I think it is a totally reasonable thing."

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