Reading the headlines of Swedish political news, the thing that is most apparent is the parochial nature of it. Despite the drama going on elsewhere in Europe with the Conservative government in free-fall in the UK, the elections in Germany, and the continued travails of the new president Emmanuel Macron in France, not much of it penetrates the conceited political discussion of Sweden.
For instance, Swedes were recently more preoccupied with elections to local parish councils — elections that just 12 % of the voters ultimately bothered to take part in. Sighs of relief were heard all round that the racist Sweden Democrats didn’t win them, and that the Social Democratic party won it instead.
Few in the Swedish press makes the connection that the Sweden Democrats are of the same movement that put Donald Trump into power in the USA, and of the same forces that compelled Britain to vote for Brexit. It is as if the Sweden Democrats exist only in themselves and only live within our duck pond. This process can also be seen in Norway with the Progressive Party there, and in Denmark. The True Finns of Finland showed that this process percolates through all Nordic countries.
However, nobody confronts them with the fact that this movement has made such a mess of the USA and Britain. And people are ahistorical enough not to remember the circus that was “New Democracy”, which sat in the Swedish parliament between 1991 and 1994.
At this time, we in Sweden are in the annual ”who wins or loses” in the upcoming budget wrangling. Since there’s an election next year, and since the current government is rather precarious, there are a lot of pork-barrel ”reforms”. Important voting groups must be motivated to go out and vote the right way in 2018, and therefore the sitting government promises a lot of bungs to these groups.
Pensioners have already been promised a big tax cut, and today it’s families’ turn because they will receive more of the universal child benefit. The headlines speak in bold about ”40 billion in reforms” in the budget, where the word ’reforms’ in this context has always been the synonym for pay-outs from the public purse to key voting groups.
If you read the budget carefully, you will notice that there will be little of these bungs to people who actually need help – it will all go to people who are already quite politically engaged.
It is as if Swedish politics has not been infected with the Neo-liberalism of Margaret Thatcher, and as if the murky movement of the fascist right championed by the likes of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump are not chomping at the bits to grow here too. This despite “New Democracy”, the Sweden Democrats, and the marches of Nazis on our streets.
But maybe it has always been like this? Bert Karlsson’s and Ian Wachtmeister’s ”New Democracy” was a joke of a party when they formed and stormed into parliament. They were every bit as clownish and incoherent as UKIP and the fascist right of today. The party was filled with odd characters with unpleasant views. But in 1991 the party won 6,7% in the general election, and gained 25 seats in the 349 seat parliament, and by 1994 they were out and in self-destruction mode.
Since neither the Red-Green block nor the liberal-conservative block got more than 50%, New Democracy became the thumb on the scales of Swedish politics. Except they were treated the same as the current Sweden Democrats – the mainstream parties wanted nothing to do with them. If there was a question of either relying on New Democracy for support, or seeking an accommodation with the opposite block, the then government went to the opposing block rather than give New Democracy any influence.
However, none of that is evident in the fish bowl politics of Sweden, because we have more important things to worry about. Like someone responded to me on Twitter, student “go back 200 SEK each month” and it’s much more important to give a bung to them because they vote, and not to the homeless people, or the beggars, or the people relying on council subsistence benefits.
Since few people here read international news, nothing much is happening in the world, and there aren’t forces rising that could threaten us all. What matters is that the right people are incentivised, and that the wrong people are compelled to “do the right thing”. Beggars should be banned from view, and middle class families with good jobs and settled living standards should get more from the public purse.