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Boris Johnson spends taxpayers' money on photoshoot of his dog Dilyn

Minister for Chilly Walks? Boris Johnson defends spending taxpayers’ cash on an Instagram-style photo-shoot of his dog Dilyn playing in the snow by saying No 10 photographers ‘document work of the whole cabinet’

  • Downing Street has released images from an ‘Instagram-style’ photoshoot with Dilyn the dog playing in snow 
  • Another of No10’s three taxpayer-funded photographers recently shared candid shots of Larry the cat
  • The photoshoots have led to accusation Boris Johnson is funding a ‘vanity project’ at the taxpayer’s expense
  • He was previously criticised for excluding independent photographers from events in favour of personal photographer Andrew Parsons

Boris Johnson has defended a Downing Street photographer’s Instagram-style photoshoot of his dog playing in the snow amid accusations of using taxpayer money to fund a personal vanity project.

A series of professionally staged photos showing Dilyn frolicking in No10’s back garden were released via the government’s official Flickr page earlier today.

A day before, another of No10’s three taxpayer-funded photographers released a candid shot he had taken of Larry the cat, Downing Street’s chief mouser, on a bookcase below a portrait of The Queen.

The photoshoots, ultimately at the expense of the taxpayer, have raised questions about the work of No10’s press operation, forcing the government to defend the photos.

Asked whether photographers should be taking pictures of Dilyn and Larry the cat, a spokesperson for the government said: ‘These photographers document the work of the government as well as the work inside Number 10.

‘We make these photos available for editorial use not just domestically but internationally as well.’

When it was pointed out that a press photographer could do the job instead, the spokesperson referred to his previous answer.

Asked whether pictures of Dilyn count as documenting the work of government, they added that they took photos ‘not just of the PM but the whole of the Cabinet’.  

Boris Johnson has been accused of using taxpayer money to fund a vanity project after Downing Street released images of an Instagram-style photoshoot of his dog playing in the snow

A series of professionally staged photos showing Dilyn frolicking in No10’s backgarden were released via the government’s official Flickr page earlier today

 The photoshoots have raised questions about the work of No10’s press operation

Another of the photographers, who started full-time last week, released a candid shot he had taken of Larry the cat, Downing Street’s chief mouser, on a bookcase below a portrait of The Queen

The pictures are credited to photographer Pippa Fowles, one of three vanity photographers on staff in Downing Street, who is understood to be working in Number 10 on secondment from the Ministry of Defence since January 2020.

While the quality of the snaps is not in doubt, her role comes despite the Mr Johnson already employing a personal photographer, Andrew Parsons, as his Special Advisor part-time on the equivalent of £100,000 a year.

Mr Parsons was previously employed by David Cameron while opposition leader and then on a short-term contract after he became Prime Minister.

He however lost his cabinet desk and was moved onto Conservative Party payroll after Mr Cameron bowed to intense criticism about the appointment.

Mr Parsons provided photographs for Boris Johnson during the 2019 election, for which his company was paid £45,000. He has since been put back on the public payroll by Mr Johnson. 

Mr Johnson is not the only one to have invested in in-house photography, with Rishi Sunak famed for using staged and supposedly candid snaps to improve his image.


The Chancellor channeled his inner Derek Zoolander (pictured, Ben Stiller as the male model from the comedy Zoolander) in a series of publicity snaps released by the Treasury to mark his Winter Economy Plan

Mr Sunak was seen striking a series of poses while looking through his Winter Economy Plan, from gazing out of the window deep in thought to leaning on a door frame to flick through his phone

Ms Fowles meanwhile has already been taking photos of several Downing Street press conferences and has accompanied the PM to vaccination centres and schools. 

She also takes photos for other government work, though an online profile for her suggested she is an ‘MOD photographer for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’.

A third promotional staffer, Simon Dawson, also began work last week on a salary of up to £60,635 a year.

It is understood he will work to help both Downing Street and the wider government ‘visually’, and has already taken photos of a No10 press briefing. 

Photographer Simon Dawson who recently joined No10, has already gone to work with Matt Hancock, showing the Health Secretary taking an active role in a meeting at the Department of Health before a Parliamentary announcement

The Health Secretary today said he made ‘no apologies’ for the harsh measures, warning that protecting the UK from variant Covid strains that can potentially evade vaccines is ‘mission critical’ – and hinting they might need to be in place until the Autumn


The Health Secretary (pictured) was seen striking several poses today, from leaning on the back of his chair to folding his arms and staring intensely into a screen

Meet the snappers: Photographers employed to make sure ministers (and their pets) always look their best 

Andrew Parsons

Not unfamiliar to Downing St, Mr Parsons works as the PM’s Special Advisor part-time on the equivalent of £100,000 a year. 

Mr Parsons was previously employed by David Cameron while he was opposition leader and then on a short-term contract after he became Prime Minister.

He however lost his cabinet desk and was moved onto Conservative Party payroll after Mr Cameron bowed to intense criticism about the appointment.

Mr Parsons provided some of the most memorable photos of Boris Johnson during the 2019 election, for which his company was paid £45,000. He has since been put back on the public payroll by Mr Johnson.

Pippa Fowles

One of three taxpayer-funded vanity photographers on staff in Downing Street, Ms Fowles is working on secondment from the Ministry of Defence.

According to her Linkedin profile Ms Fowles covered the Royal Air Force for more than four years before joining No10 in January last year.

She is the Prime Minister’s official photographer. 

Simon Dawson

Not to confuse roles, Mr Dawson is the Chief Government photographer, giving him a wider remit of work than Ms Fowles. 

He worked as a freelance photographer for Bloomberg News and Associated Press for over a decade before joining the government’s operation.

Simon Walker 

Entrusted with cultivating brand Rishi, Mr Walker is the Digital Content Editor and Photo Lead at HM Treasury.

Starting out as a freelancer in 1987, he has worked as a photographer for the Daily Express and The Times, before becoming News Picture Editor at The Times in 2004.

After leaving Reuter’s picture desk in 2018 he moved briefly towards consultancy work before joining HMRC at the end of 2019. 

Has already gone to work with Matt Hancock, showing the Health Secretary taking an active role in a meeting at the Department of Health before a Parliamentary announcement. 

A further picture, taken by him, was published today of Larry, the Number 10 cat sitting on a sideboard beneath a picture of the Queen. 

Mr Johnson is not the only one to have invested in in-house photography, with Rishi Sunak famed for using staged and supposedly candid snaps to improve his image.

The Chancellor, dubbed ‘Dishy Rishi’ for his good looks, was seen striking a series of poses while looking through his Winter Economy Plan, from gazing out of the window deep in thought to leaning on a door frame to flick through his phone.

The gallery of images was released by the Treasury as part of a publicity drive to mark the unveiling of the plan in September, which included a scheme to top up the pay of people who can only work part-time in ‘viable jobs’. 

Mr Sunak, at a reported 5ft 6in, is known for cultivating his brand under the guidance of his adviser, the former TV presenter Allegra Stratton, including by marking Treasury media releases with his personal signature.

The increased use of employed photographers has not gone unnoticed, and the Prime Minister has also faced accusations from independent photographers of being excluded from event organised by No10. 

Four bodies, including the UK Picture Editors’ Guild and the News Media Association have both complained about losing out on access.

Last year no independent photographers were allowed to witness Johnson signing the EU withdrawal agreement, or the moment the UK left the EU on 31 January.

Usually such events are covered by two rota photographers from regional or national newspapers or newswires. But the only images from Downing Street were taken by Mr Parsons. 

Alan Sparrow, the guild’s chairman, told The Guardian: ‘If the prime minister was to visit Saudi Arabia, or the Falklands, or go to Yorkshire after the floods, will we just be issued with pictures after the event?

‘Pictures selected to present the government in the best possible light, not candid or journalistic.

‘They’re just handout pictures, a bit like North Korea and the pictures issued by their leaders.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We have recruited a photographer to capture and share the Government’s work, including on vaccinations and the wider fight against Coronavirus.

‘As detailed in the public job advert, the chief photographer role is a cross-government resource.

‘Social media and digital engagement are critical communications tools, and the position will also play a leading role in supporting departmental digital communications activity.’

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