By Ray Fleming

THE announcement from Downing Street yesterday afternoon that Mr Cameron's personal photographer and filmmaker will be returning to Conservative Party HQ was a sensible recognition that their appointments as civil servants based in No 10 were wrong, both in administrative principle and in terms of public relations at a time of austerity. Mr Cameron deserves credit for responding to Ed Miliband's criticism at last week's Prime Minister's Questions.

However, this is not the end of the story of the coalition government's questionable practices over the appointment of former Conservative Central Office staff or other party-linked specialists to jobs at No 10, the Cabinet Office and elsewhere in Whitehall. While in opposition the Conservatives made great play over the number of special advisers appointed to Labour government ministers, in particular those working in Downing Street.

The coalition government has appeared to be using special advisers to a lesser extent but in reality has created that impression by parachuting Conservative aides into existing or newly created civil service posts. In some cases civil servants have been moved out of jobs they have held for some time to create a vacancy for the newcomers. The rule that such positions should be filled only after being advertised and after interviews has not been followed. The transparency of special advisers known to be party affiliated is greatly to be preferred to party workers being paid for by the taxpayer.


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