Reinfeldt aide takes ‘time out’ from job

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's closest aide is to take time out from her job. State Secretary Ulrica Schenström will be absent from her post for an unspecified period following days of negative media stories about an evening she spent in a bar with a TV4 political correspondent.

It was Schenström’s own decision to take a sabbatical, said Reinfeldt’s press secretary Oscar Hallén:

“She’s worked a lot over a long period and this [the latest media storm] has hit her hard,” Hallén told Svenska Dagbladet.

Schenström’s visit to a Stockholm bar with TV4 reporter Anders Pihlblad was featured in a report in tabloid Aftonbladet last Friday. The report included photos which showed her apparently kissing Pihlblad, although accusations that the pair were romantically involved have been dismissed by both Schenström and Pihlblad.

In recent days, Social Democrat accusations have focused on Schenström’s alcohol consumption. Pihlbad told his own channel on Wednesday that both he and she were “clearly under the influence of alcohol.”

“She was absolutely not out of control, but she was clearly affected,” he said.

Leading opposition politicians have asked whether she was on call for the country’s crisis management apparatus – questions Reinfeldt has refused to answer.

Reinfeldt has stood by Schenström, who is viewed as the most important member of his personal staff and who served as his press secretary prior to him becoming prime minister. Earlier on Wednesday he said he had continued confidence in his aide.

“She is a long-serving colleague and I have learnt that I can trust her word that she was capable of taking decisions,” he told SVT. But opposition spokesman Håkan Juholt said that she had shown “poor judgement.”

“There is no room in that job for less than 100 percent confidence in her judgement,” he said.