Strident talk on May Day parades

From the far north to the southern tip of the country, Sweden’s politicians were out in force for the traditional May 1st marches. Prime Minister Göran Persson talked about teeth in Malmö, European Union Commissioner Margot Wallström flashed her pearly whites while stumping for EU support in Umeå, while LO union head Wanja Lundby-Wedin set her jaw and her mind on job creation in the capital city.

Persson praised the Swedish model. “Swedes are equal, safe, environmentally conscious, and, I can add, pay very high taxes. All of the economists I’ve talked to through the years have said, ‘This won’t work.’ But it does. We’ve had better economic development in the past ten years than any other country in the European Union,” he said.

He admitted that dental care should be cheaper for young adults, however. A committee will be appointed next week to examine new dental insurance for people aged 20-30.

After his speech, he predicted for DN what would happen next year: “It’s a safe guess that I’ll be back as a May first speaker during the next term as party leader, and hopefully as Prime Minister.”

That question might be answered differently by Margot Wallström. Though she had promised Persson and opposition party leaders that she would be absent from May first activities next year, she changed her mind at a press conference following this year’s performance. “I would very much like to participate next year. I think I’m entitled.”

As to whether that means as party leader, she hedges. “Nothing is forever. But the question (of party leadership) isn’t valid right now. I have my reasons for saying that I am not a candidate at this time,” she said at the press conference.

Wallström’s speech focused on the EU and jobs. Before a sceptical audience of 2,000 northern Swedes, she said: “We must start over with the EU’s efforts to create more jobs.”

The job message was the same, but localized, in Stockholm. Wanja Lundby-Wedin, head of LO, Sweden’s trade union confederation, said unemployment should be at the top of politicians’ lists of things to fix.

Specifically she wants more training for the unemployed. “More is needed. I expect to see more measures in the autumn budget, “ she said, pointing the finger of responsibility not only at politicians in government but also those working for the Swedish central bank.

The bank should have already lowered interest rates, she said: “But it’s not too late. We know that lower interest rates lead to more jobs.”

Lundby-Wedin also addressed the Stockholm issue of her party’s sinking popularity. A recent poll put the conservative Moderate Party ahead in the capital city. She says Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt won’t hold on to his lead, however.

“Reinfeldt has tried to portray the Moderates in a ’Moderate Light’ manner. He’s trying to appeal to workers, but his proposals prove that he has no idea how workers have it,” she said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet