Yes, I’ve noted that transcripts of Mona Sahlin’s and Göran Hägglund’s speeches from Almedalen are now available. I may get back to those next week.
But the question is if the most important political news from Sweden during the last weeks are a) that the Conservatives have blocked attempts to introduce a reform of regional government in Sweden and b) that the Social Democrats want to reformulate their school policies.
Regional Reform Cancelled
The Conservatives effectively killed the report from the Committee on Public Sector Responsibilities which suggested the creation of 6-9 regions to replaced the present 24 councils and regional state authorities. The Conservatives’ party secretary shot down the plans in early June and the other three coalition partners had no choice but to accept the political facts.
It is interesting that the Conservatives wanted to kill the process in a very public way before the responses of the consultation round had started to come. I very much doubt that the arguments presented by the Conservatives – that an administrative process should be a bottom-up process etc – reflect their true motives: Like their Danish counterparts, the Swedish Conservatives have always had the reputation of a state party – regionalisation, especially with an emphasis on regional industrial and labour market policy, was more of a Social Democratic issue.
What will happen instead?
My immediate, and perhaps slightly provocative, guess is that Swedish health care policy could be aimed in the same direction as the Norwegian and to some extent Danish policies – that is: The counties will lose their position as an independent, and taxing, level of government and be replaced by either national or regional agencies overseeing the provision of health care.
A second step could then be the privatisation of both primary (GPs, local health care centres, etc) and secondary (hospitals) health care producers. Legislation has already opened for the privatisation of hospitals.
Local industrial and labour market policy? Killed off. (Note that one of the first initiatives by the government was to abolish the regional labour market boards).
What’s left is public transport – which could also be transferred to either national agencies or local government associations – and culture (same).
One problem is that the EU’s regional policies expect that there is a regional level of government but if the Danes managed to go past that, then it ought to be possible in Sweden as well.
Education Policy Reconsidered
The Social Democrats have appointed a specialist group to address what is seen as weaknesses in the party’s education policy – specifically problems with regard to primary education. Or to quote the party’s webpage: Why do so many voters believe that the Social Democrats do not back the goal of proficiency?
I’ll just note that the Social Democrats have given children and younger people priority as policy objects. The choice of education is also interesting because it was the Liberal Party’s main issue during the 2002 and 2006 campaigns where the Liberals contrasted their demands for clearer learning goals with alleged Social Democratic do-goodiness. It could signal a shift to the “right” on the cultural dimension.