Persson is history

Having come out second best in a public spat with EU Commissioner Margot Wallström and with many commentators questioning his commitment to his job, the last thing Prime Minister Göran Persson needs is a hint from his own constituency that he's more a man of Sweden's past than the man for Sweden's future.

No doubt the idea for a ‘Persson Museum’ in Vingåker, the PM’s home town, was conceived with the best intentions, but the press simply couldn’t take it seriously.

While the man behind the plans, Hans Averheim, a member of Vingåker Council, said that he thought it would be easy to persuade the great man to lend or donate interesting items to the exhibition at the Säfstaholm estate, Aftonbladet made a few suggestions of its own.

“Perhaps Persson’s trendy giant specs from the beginning of the 80s, his childhood sailor’s outfit, his first arithmetic book or his first political speech. And then maybe the museum visit could be followed up with a guided tour around the important places from Persson’s youth – called ‘In Göran’s footsteps’.”

One man hoping to follow in Göran’s footsteps – or at least a little to the right of them – is Fredrik Reinfeldt, the leader of Sweden’s largest opposition party, the Moderates. Viewers of SVT2’s European Election debate on Sunday night gave him the highest rating of the seven party leaders – including Persson – who took part.

“Now he wants your job, Göran,” declared Expressen – somewhat prematurely considering the Swedish parliamentary election is a good two years away.

The paper noted that Reinfeldt steered well clear of tax issues, a favourite theme of his predecessor, and “instead talked about welfare, at times sounding like a genuine social democrat”. Expressen asked Reinfeldt if this was intentional.

“No, it’s just that tax wasn’t the focus of the debate,” he said. “The focus became employment and the fight against crime.”

Reinfeldt was delighted that viewers had backed him and put it down to good preparation.

“It’s a promising start,” he said. “But it’s the vote in 2006 that counts.”

Indeed, and what counts as much as anything in an election is trust. The question is – at least according to Tuesday’s Aftonbladet – can voters trust a man who lies about his lunch?

Apparently Göran Persson has been telling porkies about the meal that was served at his official residence, which was converted into a wedding venue for a friend’s wedding last week.

His press secretary reported that guests would be dining on simple socialist fare – cabbage soup, fried herring and rhubarb compote. But in fact they enjoyed a lavish spread of nettle soup, grilled pork cutlets in a port and sage sauce, three – count ’em! – cheeses, and a rhubarb compote. With vanilla ice cream.

Politically this sort of thing may be small fry, but for Aftonbladet, intent on making a meal of it, “the consequences are worrying.”

“In what dark land do we find ourselves,” the paper wondered, evoking images of Tolkien’s Mordor, “if the Prime Minister makes it his job to lie? Even about something so insignificant as a wedding menu.”

Food for thought.