Last Friday I visited Peter Santesson-Wilson in his very Swedish apartment in a very Swedish suburb of that most Swedish of cities … well, perhaps not: The typical Swedish city (or town) would probably be better represented by Örebro than Stockholm, but never mind.
Anyway, with a little over six months to the next general election in Sweden, the discussion also touched upon the state of the Swedish Social Democracy which in many ways is a less formidable creature than it used to be. The party, for instance, has a problem with attracting more than 35% of the vote if opinion polls are to be believed. This is a historically bad performance.
On the other hand, the SocDems enjoyed an upsurge in support during the first part of the 2006-2010 term, so trying to figure out exactly what is going on is not quite easy.
But, so the discussion went, is Mona Sahlin to blame. And how did she become party leader, anyway? Even if there was along selection process, she still appeared to have been selected because … well, because … okay, the SocDems wanted a woman as leader and following the murder of Anna Lindh the circle of candidates looked rather meagre.
Why the lack of enthusiasm? Perhaps because Sahlin as a politician and leader is guided more by instinct than analysis – and no, I don’t consider these feminine traits because as the headline should tell you, I was able to dig up a Danish parallel: Anker Jørgensen, leader of the Danish Social Democrats from 1972 to 1987 and prime minister 1972-1973 and 1975-1982 and also known for his less than analytical take on the issues of the day.
Jørgensen and Sahlin were selected in different ways: Jørgensen was the choice of his predecessor Jens Otto Krag while Sahlin was selected after a pretty long process involving SocDem activists. However, the motives behind their selection may have been similar – an attempt to attract core groups of SocDem voters which the party feared losing due to recent policy choices. Just like Jørgensen, Sahlin’s task is to guarantee Social Democratic authenticity.
In Jørgensen’s case, the group were (male) industrial workers, in Sahlin’s case we should probably look for (female) public sector workers. Jørgensen followed Viggo Kampmann and Jens Otto Krag, two analytical economists who never really managed to win the hearts of the party, Sahlin follows Göran “Tony Soprano” Persson, the architect of much of the austerity policies of the 1990s. Again, the party never really warmed to Persson.