Kisses from Reinfeldt aide cause row

A row has broken out after Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's closest aide, State Secretary Ulrica Schenström, was photographed apparently kissing a journalist in a Stockholm bar. Social Democrats have called for her resignation, but Reinfeldt has said they are making a fuss about nothing.

The photos of Schenström and TV4’s political reporter Anders Pihlblad show them embracing at a restaurant table. Some have interpreted the images as showing an intimate embrace – something Schenström and Pihlblad both deny.

The publication of the photos has sent the opposition into overdrive, with the Social Democrats’ party secretary Marita Ulvskog claiming that Schenström’s actions “mean that one cannot have any faith in her.”

The Social Democrats’ deputy party secretary, Håkan Juholt, who is a member of the parliamentary defence committee, said the photos indicated that Schenström was a threat to national security, due to her role in the government’s crisis contingency planning.

“Her judgement is expected to lead the government’s crisis management. She is expected to push the button to start a process involving maybe thousands of employees in government agencies. This is a unique central role in the nation’s crisis management which requires that you have absolute confidence and the best possible judgement,” he said.

But Reinfeldt has defended his state secretary, saying she has not crossed the line of what is acceptable for a background discussion with journalists.

“The Social Democrats, who are in opposition, are trying to make a big deal out of nothing,” he said. He added that Schenström “knows where to draw the line between people with political power and journalists.

Reinfeldt’s press spokesman, Oscar Hallén, added:

“It’s not news that politicians and journalists meet. And everyone who meets Ulrica knows she’s outgoing. She’s not ashamed of that.”

Pihlblad’s boss at TV4 also denied that there was anything unprofessional about the meeting. Jonas Gummesson, deputy director of TV4 news, said their investigations showed that Schenström and Pihlblad did not have a private relationship. The kisses were “the sort of thing that happens in that kind of environment. It doesn’t necessarily mean more than hugging someone,” he told Expressen.