Culture Secretary denies agreeing to digitally altered photograph

Click to follow

The Culture Secretary faced a call to resign yesterday after it emerged that a hospital publicity photograph was digitally altered to insert his picture.

James Purnell found himself in an embarrassing situation over the disclosure just two weeks after he warned broadcasters of the danger of losing the trust of viewers.

The controversy centred on a photocall at Tameside general hospital, Greater Manchester, to mark the start of work on a new unit. Mr Purnell was among four local MPs invited to the event, but he arrived after the photograph been taken and the other MPs had left.

He was photographed in the same position and his image was added into the earlier shot. The picture was then distributed to the local press. The hospital said the minister had agreed to photographs being "merged", but he said it was an innocent "misunderstanding". In a statement to BBC North West, the hospital said: "As we would not be able to stage a repeat of this historic day for the hospital, we decided to take a photograph of Mr Purnell in the same spot very shortly after, and merge it with the earlier photograph, to which Mr Purnell kindly consented.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Purnell denied he agreed to the picture being doctored. "He was assured they would show the three MPs in one picture and have him separately in the corner."

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow Culture Secretary, said Mr Purnell's position looked "completely untenable" and demanded a "public apology at the least".