Reinfeldt: Schenström was on call

Reinfeldt: Schenström was on call
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix
Ulrica Schenström, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's closest aide, was on call when she was out drinking with a political reporter from TV4, Reinfeldt has said.

Schenström resigned on Wednesday night after a week of controversy over her visit to a bar, where she was photographed apparently embracing reporter Anders Pihlblad.

Reinfeldt told the Riksdag during question time on Thursday that Schenström had informed him about the visit to a Stockholm bar and admitted drinking wine, but had stressed that she was fully capable of carrying out her duties for the government’s emergency response organization.

The Prime Minister said he had believed Schenström’s account until Wednesday, when the bill from her bar visit was made public. This showed that she and Pihlblad had between them spent 945 kronor on alcohol.

Following this disclosure, Reinfeldt spoke with his aide, after which she asked for leave of absence. She resigned later in the evening.

“I had enough leadership to accept the consequences,” he told members of parliament.

“This is a personal tragedy for her and me,” he added.

Speaking to a press conference following the question time in the Riksdag, Reinfeldt said that when he found out how much Schenström and Pihlbad had drunk he was “very upset.”

“It was one of my most difficult moments in politics,” he said.

The prime minister was visibly upset by the events and by Schenström’s resignation.

He was asked what the difference was between his handling of the affair and predecessor Göran Persson’s handling of the controversy surrounding his closest aide, Lars Danielsson. Reinfeldt and other leaders of the then-opposition parties were critical of Persson’s handling of the episode.

Reinfeldt replied: “The obvious difference was that Lars Danielsson did not resign. Ulrica Schenström has accepted responsibility.”

The prime minister said there was not a total ban on alcohol consumption for government staff who were on call. It was a “question of judgement” and there was a “sliding scale”, he said.

But Reinfeldt told the Riksdag that the nature of the government’s emergency planning organization had been misunderstood by many. He said that there was never only one person on call:

“We have a non-political duty operation and a political duty operation, which includes people from a number of departments,” he said. He added he would provide further information if the Riksdag demanded it.

The prime minister underlined that there had been no adverse affects of Schenström’s alleged incapacitation on the night in question.

Schenström is also facing a criminal investigation over the night in question. She is suspected of taking bribes in the form of the alcohol, which was paid for by Pihlblad. The journalist is also being investigated on bribery allegations.