Back in the early 1980s a Danish goalkeeper from a Division I side earned his 15 minutes of fame.
His feat? After clearing a shot, he was to throw the ball back into play. That is usually a fairly undramatic procedure, but the goalkeeper for whatever reason forgot to let go of the ball, turned around his own axis and hurled the ball into his own goal. The stunned referee was left with no other choice than to allow the goal and as the game was being recorded for television, the rest – as they say – was history.
Casual observers of Swedish politics with some knowledge of soccer history should be excused if they were under the impression that the four centre-right opposition parties have taken their cue in the handling of the Tsunami Crisis Management Report from the unlucky goalkeeper.
Instead of mounting some kind of coordinated attack on the government, the four parties have managed to look hesitant, insecure and uncoordinated.
The first question facing the parties was whether or not to call for a vote of not confidence against the government or one or more of the ministers criticised in the Tsunami Report. Given the media attacks against Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds, she would have been an easy target.
But no. After some considerations, the four parties chickened out and declared that a vote of no confidence would be a waste of time, as the Left and Green Parties would be supporting the government.
This is undeniably true but misses the point that a vote of no confidence could be used to group the Left and Green parties with the Social Democratics which means that the two small party would share the political blame for the government’s handling of the crisis. Voters who were angry at the government would then have to think twice before voting for the Left or Greens.
Equally, the lack of momentum in the political response of the opposition did not look promising, but at least the parties agreed on using questioning in the Consitutional Committee of the Swedish Riksdag as their political vehicle.
Allmost agreed, that is: The Centre Party decided to break ranks and call for a vote of no confidence against the Foreign Minister.
One problem with this strategy is that the Centre Party only holds 22 seats in the Swedish parliament and 35 are needed to call for a vote of no confidence.
Another problem is that the move did not go down well with the other parties and the Stockholm-based centre-right newspapers who were quick to describe the Centre Party as unstable, incompetent and ideologically suspect.
Spin doctor, anyone?