“Green” ministers in Swedish government off to a rocky start

It has only been a month since the new Red/Green government took over in Sweden. So it is early days yet. Inexperience abounds both among the Social Democrats (the senior coalition partner) and among the Environment party ministers. The Social Democrats are running a little scared and appear to be bent on appeasing far left and Green party demands. The far left party is not in government but has an inordinate influence since the coalition itself does not have its own majority. The Green party has already stopped many development projects around Stockholm (as they usually do) and the Social Democrats have not been strong enough to stop their job destruction.

The Green party does not have party leaders – only spokespersons – which is a wonderful way of evading responsibility. They have six ministers in the new government. The group is very politically correct with 3 men and 3 women. But with ages ranging between 31 and 51, I observe that they have little chance of (and no interest in) reflecting the views of the increasing number of senior citizens.

Any new government must have its share of inexperience and I have no quarrel with that. But incompetence in a minister is not so forgivable. They have not particularly enhanced their reputations so far. Instead many have been demonstrating an inexperience which borders on either an embarrassing level of naiveté or some level of incompetence. I don’t have any great expectations of them.

  • Åsa Romson, 42, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment and Climate, is usually fairly circumspect in what she says.  She has a doctorate in international environmental rights but her speeches tend to be a string of very politically correct cliches. There is little evidence of an open mind or any great thought beyond the parroting of cliches. She has however demonstrated a sad lack of judgement by appointing a convicted drug trafficker to the Cabinet Office as her closest aide. She has defended her choice on the grounds that he has served his sentence and has paid his debt to society. But she misses the point. It is her judgement in having someone who is known to drink himself senseless and who is a convicted drug trafficker at the highest office of government which is in question. I would have thought that he would be privy to a great many confidential matters and an obvious security risk.
  • Gustav Fridolin, 31, is the Education Minister (!). He has been a peace activist, been arrested by the Israelis in the West Bank  and won Junior Jeopardy at the age of 11. By the age of 19 he was a Member of Parliament. He has also been a TV reporter. He has not attended university or any other form of higher education. Soon after being appointed he addressed all Swedish teachers by YouTube! A remarkably patronising effort directed at teachers as if they were 10 year old children. If I were a teacher I would be horribly depressed by the childish approach of the Education Minister. He too demonstrated some poor judgement when he chose an aide to work within government who was then rejected (after having worked for two days) by the Security Services for being heavily in debt.
  • Per Bolund, 43, is the Deputy Finance Minister and the Minister for Financial Markets and Consumers. He is by education a biologist but never completed his doctorate. He has not made any real blunders yet, though his immediate castigation of Swedish banks when they came through the recent stress tests with flying colours, seemed more a reflex, ideological twitch rather than any considered opinion. As a member of the Environmental party it is not in his genes to ever acknowledge that any part of the finance sector has done well. He is – of course – generally in favour of raising taxes wherever possible.
  • Isabella Lövin, 51, is the Minister of International Development Cooperation (Foreign Aid) and has kept a relatively low profile so far. She made some fine sounding statements about the €16 million Swedish support (out of €1 billion from the EC and the EU)  for helping the African countries fighting Ebola. Unfortunately this was somewhat negated by the subsequent Swedish rejection of a request for treatment of an aid worker suspected to have been infected. She was not the one to make the rejection which was more due to a bureaucratic approach to emergency situations. She has probably supported the government in its largely symbolic – but rather useless – gesture of recognising the state of Palestine. Another “feel good” action without objectives.
  • Mehmet Kaplan, 43, is of Turkish origin and is the Housing and City Development Minister. In July this year he equated the ISIS jihadists with freedom fighters. He has been very active in the past in trying to get subsidies for mosques but his record on Sharia Law and radicalisation of young Muslims is rather ambivalent. The right-wing Sweden Democrats like to target him, but he does gets a little bit of a free ride from the media and other politicians because of his opponents’ fear of being seen as islamophobic and politically incorrect. (A little reminiscent of the politicians who did not dare enough in Rotherham). He has yet to make his mark.
  • Alice Bah Kuhnke, 43, is the Minister of Culture and Democracy and has made a rather inept start. She has a degree in political science and is best known as a children’s programme and talk-show host on Swedish TV. She had a disastrous radio interview where she rejected many questions for being hypothetical. Her attempts to correct the fiasco with her own article in the press only made it worse. Surprisingly she is not comfortable in granting the press access and tries to control and micro-manage their questions. She is also getting herself horribly mixed up whenever she tries to equate culture with ecology and sustainable development. Her take on what constitutes culture leaves a little to be desired.

This group of six do not fill with me any great confidence but it is early days yet.

Maybe they will all grow into their jobs. Maybe they will perform better than my very low expectations.

But as a group they have not started very well. I am left with the impression that they are all a little too light-weight for the responsibilities that they may well fail to carry. There is a real risk that this group of six will only help in bringing this government further into disrepute.

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