Monday, September 18, 2006


Blairite of the Right Wins Office in Sweden

In 1967 Sweden decided to change its practice of driving on the left and on a particular day and time all traffic crossed the road to the other side-as the picture shows. It was all done in the typical highly organized Swedish way and was wholly successful. The country has been much less willing to cross the road politically. Since the days when the social democrats began to dominate Swedish politics- Hjalmar Branting,(20s) Per Albin Hansson(30s) and Tage Erlander(40s)- rightwing governments have ruled for less than a decade overall. The 'Swedish social model' has been the product purely of the Social Democrats which can also take the credit for that country's steady economic growth, low unemployment(though allegedly there is a big swathe which is hidden) and magnificent, mostly free, public services.

We learn this morning, however, that Fredrick Reinfeldt's Moderates have swept to power in the 349 Riksdag with the support of other rightwing groupings. Interestingly the new rightwing government have promised not to erode the revered welfare model but merely to 'reform' it. Swedish voters, seduced by the Blairite blandishments of Reinfeldt, might come to appreciate, to their cost, that there is much eroding that can be achieved in the name of reform. He promises only mild adjustments: tax cuts of less than £3bn next year though £8bn in 2008; unemployed to get their 80 per cent of former income cut to 65 per cent; some privatisations- though Sweden's route to socialism never entailed much state control; and a more pro-EU(though not pro euro) foreign policy with possible joining of NATO which would be a big step for the traditionally neutral Swedes).

The Swedes have elections every four years and unless this guy really is a Swedish Tony Blair as an election winner I suspect young Fredrik will be back in opposition by 2010. But if he really is that same combination of media magician, political chameleon and sanctimonious untrustworthiness one feels a little apprehensive for the Swedes over the next four years.

I heard him interviewed on Radio 4 last week - he was scary, something about his voice made you feel uncomfortable.

Did you notice that your blog was quoted in today's Guradian? page 2.
yes, I did actually; the third time i've received such bloggers' honour.
My comment above should have read 'honour'(with the commas). I'm intrerested to hear the new Swedish PM sounds so creepy. No doubt his English is impeccable.
I'm certainly not apprehensive for the Swedes. Near one-party government is not good for any democracy - Japan and Sweden included. It encourages conservatism and stagnation, as these two countries' economies have indicated over the last decade.

Fredrik has come to power on a more moderate ticket - good news for the majority of Swedes who wish to see the preservation of the basic tenets of social democracy. But an unemployment benefit of 80% is far too high, which inevitably will disincentivise work. Official unemployment is just under 6% but the "alleged swathe" is considered to bump that statistic up to 15-20%.
Fair enough point re one party government though oddly I know of no Swede who would consider this relevant- they just don't seem to think it matters. And the Swedish economy has been booming rather than stagnating for a some time. But on balance I agree, it won't do the country too much harm unless the warm words required to get power are cast aside for a more blue in tooth and claw rightwingery once the government is established.
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