PrimeGate and ‘The Swedish leadership question’

An opinion article dated Dec. 16, with the title ‘The Swedish leadership question’, was published by Policy Network today Dec.21. It was written by former chairman of SSU, the Swedish social democratic youth organization.

The article was proably written before before media (Aftonbladet) revealed, the last few days, that Mr. Nordström and his PR agency Prime were paid by the SN (Swedish Employers Federation) to convince social democratic leaders that political renewal with ‘economic growth’ as the key is necessary. This is already know in Sweden and on twitter as #primegate

Here are a few extracts from Mr. Nordströms article:   “Upon resigning as leader, Mona Sahlin has frankly stated that the Social Democrats are way out of step with public sentiment. ..

She amazed her audience by rejecting not only the analysis that underpinned the Social Democratic election campaign, but many of the actual policies of the party: policies on taxation, entrepreneurship, unemployment, and economic growth, all of which she said were out of step with public sentiment. She also stated that she hadn’t believed in the alliance with the Left Party in the first place, having instead preferred an alliance exclusively with the Greens. …

The lesson is simple. To replace one leader with another is seldom enough to save a party from decline. A change of perspective is needed, the fresh vision of someone not entangled in the ideological web of the old party leadership. …In Sweden, unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. The indications are that the next Swedish social democratic leader will be recruited from Mrs. Sahlin’s old guard. The generational shift, and consequently a much needed change of perspective, still seems a distant promise.

Niklas Nordström is a member of Stockholm County Council and partner of the leading PR agency in Sweden, Prime Group.”

Of course, after the first article in Aftonbladet (indep. social democratic on its lead pages) the debate has continued. A key point has been that the lobbying was financed and carried out secretly. Many feel manipulated by Prime. Mr. Nordström has defended himself (‘my opinions are not for sale’), but union officials and many social democrats are not convinced, and prime has ben called ‘a troyan horse in the labour movement‘ (Daniel Suhonen). Also, the progressive/left think tank Arena has broken all relations with Prime, which was one of the main sponsors of Arena.

There is reason to believe that we have only seen the beginning of primegate, and that it will have consequences for social democracy and its process of choosing a new leadership and formulating its new policy. For social democracy it is essential of course to find ways beyond Primegate. One way is regulation and registration of lobbying in the future. But more fundamental is, as Karin Pettersson in Aftonbladet writes today, that the various tendencies in the party find ways to open dialogue with each other. In spite of Prime.

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