Esther McVey claimed ??8,750 in expenses for personal photographer

Exclusive: Tory leadership hopeful spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers??? money in just two years

Esther McVey
Esther McVey. Other MPs who have used a personal photographer to promote their work claimed significantly smaller amounts. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

The Conservative leadership hopeful Esther McVey has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers??? money claiming for a personal photographer on expenses.

The MP has submitted claims worth ??8,750 for the services of the photographer and PR man Jonathan Farber in just two years, according to an analysis of data held by the expenses watchdog. McVey ??? whose website is adorned with photographs of herself ??? hired Farber, an ex-Tory councillor in her constituency in Cheshire.

One receipt obtained using freedom of information laws from May 2018 shows that Farber invoiced McVey ??750 for five hours??? work for two shoots including ???edits, image processing and travel time???.

One of the shoots featured McVey, who was a broadcaster and businesswoman before entering politics, showing her support for paddle boarders joining the fight against plastic waste. The other was for a Women???s Institute shoot and talk. The invoice is from ???Jonathan Farber photo, video & consultancy???, and states McVey is being billed for ???comms consultancy???, adding: ???Fixed rate retained professional photo, video and communications services.???

McVey, who takes home an annual salary of ??79,468 as an MP, says she is standing in the Tory leadership race as a ???public servant???, but is an underdog, with only a handful of MPs publicly backing her campaign.

McVey???s expense claims could prove controversial with her colleagues. In 2018-19, she claimed ??6,000 for Farber???s services, and ??2,750 in 2017-18. In total, McVey has submitted claims for Farber???s services on 13 occasions, the majority of which describe his work as ???comms??? or ???consultancy???.

All of the claims were approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which said: ???Communication is a large part of an MP???s role and they are able to claim professional services to support them carrying out their duties. This could include photography to be used on their website and other digital and print communication channels.???

Although some other MPs have claimed for professional photography, most have done so for significantly smaller amounts than the sums McVey has disbursed.

On his LinkedIn page, Farber says he does ???visual communications??? for McVey. He was a town councillor in Knutsford from 2015 to May 2019. His website states that he charges ??125 an hour for private photography and ??175 for ???commercial press/PR photography???.

In March last year, Farber???s PR firm, WA16, posted a picture of the MP on social media, adding: ???A gritty press shoot here with Rt Hon Esther McVey MP with @highwaysengland just hours before the snow began to fall.???

In February 2018, the account posted another picture of McVey standing with a group outside Alderley BioHub, which houses laboratories, in her Tatton constituency.

McVey???s leadership bid centres around her belief in what she describes as ???blue collar conservatism???, which champions ???working people???. As a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions in 2013, she said during a debate on the rising use of food banks: ???It is positive; people are reaching out to support others in church groups, community groups, local supermarkets and other groups.

???In the UK, it is right to say that more people are visiting food banks, as we would expect ??? Times are tough and we all have to pay back the ??1.5tn of personal debt, which spiralled under Labour. We are all trying to live within our means, change the gear, and ensure we are paying back all the debt that we saw under Labour.???

She has been criticised during the leadership contest for repeatedly stating that parents should be allowed to take primary-aged children out of lessons on same-sex relationships. It came after controversy over protesters, including parents, demonstrating outsi