‘Instagram Diplomacy’: Concerns Grow Over Liz Truss’ Five-a-Day, Publicly Funded Photos | Conservative management
OWhen photographs emerged last week of a Liz Truss clad in faux fur in Moscow’s Red Square, it was impossible not to draw a comparison to an almost identical image of Margaret Thatcher in Soviet Russia 35 years ago. Yet the striking image was just the latest in a torrent of official footage of the Foreign Secretary’s exploits.
There are, in fact, very few moments in Truss’ five-month stay at the Foreign Office that have not been captured for posterity by publicly funded official photographers. A review of the government’s official account on photo-sharing platform Flickr reveals that since the day she took office, more than 700 photos have been uploaded featuring Truss – an average of more than four and a half days a day , or about one photo every five hours of work.
Although there are brief interludes depicting Steve Barclay at Ikea, Priti Patel visiting Boots or Rishi Sunak stroking a parrot, the official stream of photographs is dominated by Truss, now seen by many conservatives as the favorite to replace Johnson’s he had to be forced out of office before. the next election. Sydney, Moscow, Mexico City and Mumbai are just a few of the locations that form Truss’ backdrop, with each visit documented in detail.
Some of the most notable snaps include fist bumps with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg driving a tank in military gear in Estonia, chatting with Henry Kissinger in New York (his run over the Brooklyn Bridge was also captured), sitting in an F35B fighter jet on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, staring at his formidable Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Worrying for her potential leadership rival Sunak, she was also pictured on the chancellor’s pitch – opening the London Stock Exchange.
At home, she is captured in the grandeur of Chevening, her country mansion of grace and favor. Zoom calls are also included. There’s even a photo of Truss meeting one of his own ministers.
The Foreign Minister’s new life through a lens has not gone unnoticed by her ministerial colleagues. He also raised criticism over the prolific use of official government photographers. Critics say their skills are now helping Conservative leadership candidates show their best side. While Truss dominates the government’s official photo feed, Sunak actually has his own Treasury Flickr account, although he has only managed around 340 photographs of the chancellor since the September reshuffle which saw Truss arrive at the ministry Foreign Affairs.
It is not uncommon for foreign secretaries to find themselves in front of the camera. Still, some conservatives view his very public outings as a direct attempt to curry favor with party members ahead of a possible leadership election. A minister put it bluntly: “It’s an ignorant way to behave.”
His odyssey also stands in stark contrast to some of his more photo-shy colleagues. Environment Secretary George Eustice, for example, appears to have featured in just three photographs on the official Flickr account since September – and one of them is his official cabinet portrait. The other two were taken as he entered Downing Street for a cabinet meeting in November.
The Prime Minister also brought in his own official photographer, Andrew Parsons, and made visits to hospitals and vaccination centers as pressure mounted over alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street. Twelve of those trips have appeared on No. 10’s Flickr account since early November.
Alan Sparrow, chairman of the UK Picture Editors’ Guild, said while freelance photographers were still invited on ministerial trips, the growing use of government snappers raised potential pitfalls. “My first reaction to the staff photographers was that I was worried that the other pool positions would be closed and we would be forced to use the documents only,” he said. “So far this has not happened. However, there are no guarantees – all it takes is a change in personnel or attitudes and we would find ourselves in a position where the only images available are those provided by No. 10.”
Political opponents are more scathing about official portraits, given that they are a potentially powerful part of a leadership campaign. “At a time when Europe is facing its biggest security crisis in decades, Liz Truss seems more interested in Instagram diplomacy than working with our allies,” said Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs. “These serious times deserve serious leaders. We need a foreign secretary focused on the task at hand, not using a taxpayer-funded photographer to pursue her leadership ambitions.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: ‘It is essential that the government and its ministers communicate to the public and other public what they are doing for the UK. The images help tell that story. Social media and digital engagement are essential communication tools, and our photographers play a leading role in supporting the government’s digital communication activity.