Persson picks election team

"Experience and renewal." That's how prime minister, Göran Persson, described his new ministerial team at a press conference this afternoon. There are three new government ministers in a line up which Persson sees as being the one to fight the next election in 2006.

The major changes are that finance minister Bosse Ringholm becomes deputy prime minister and is replaced by minister for co-ordination, Pär Nuder. The current business minister, Leif Pagrotsky, and education minister, Thomas Östros, swap jobs. Equality and integration minister, Mona Sahlin, heads a new departmartment and becomes minister for social development.

It had already been agreed that Ringholm would not serve another mandate period as finance minister.

New blood is supplied by Sven-Erik Österberg, who becomes deputy finance minister; Ibrahim Baylan, who becomes minister for schools; and Jens Orback, who takes over from Mona Sahlin as equality and integration minister.

The appointment of Ibrahim Baylan is significant, as Persson has long been on the look-out for a minister from an ethnic minority. Persson described him as “having expert knowledge and being politically mature.”

Jens Orback is also sure to get his fair share of attention. The 45 year old Stockholm politician, who had just been appointed cultural commissioner in the city, is a dashing former TV presenter, with a winning smile and sporty interests. Those in the know are already talking of the ‘Bodström factor’, referring to the dashing justice minister with a winning smile and sporty interests.

“I don’t know how equal I am, I could probably be better,” said the former presenter of ‘Striptease’ (apparently a hard-hitting social affairs programme) to Aftonbladet. “I’m proud, but my first priority is my children.”

His predecessor, Mona Sahlin, wasn’t shy in giving the new boy her seal of approval, although there was a sting in the tail.

“I think it’s bloody great that Jens is the new equality minister. But I don’t intend giving up equality issues myself. Once you’ve gone around with those glasses on, you don’t take them off.”

Persson made sure he’d done his equality sums. “It’s blokes leaving and blokes coming in,” he said in response to questions about the common gender of the three newcomers. “It’s still eleven men and eleven women.”

Persson was unconvincingly disarming when questioned about the timing of his announcement. It just so happened to coincide with the conservative alliance’s announcement of their new shadow cabinet, as they strive to impress on the electorate their newly found team spirit.

“I’ve waited and waited and then went for it!” he joked, before continuing. “I didn’t have a clue about what the conservative parties were up to.”

Persson professed himself to be unimpressed with what the opposition have come up with so far and the feeling is entirely mutual. Maud Olofsson, leader of the center party, said:

“Bad policies don’t improve with a new team.”

Moderate leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt, had similar observations:

“All the fuss about adding the finishing touches to the team was just about a few players swapping positions. But when the team isn’t playing well, you usually don’t just swap the players around, but swap the coach as well. Now one gets the impression that it’s the same faces, but with less experience.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet