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Swedish party leaders congratulate Blair

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12:22 CEST+02:00
Swedish prime minister Göran Persson has congratulated Tony Blair for his party's victory in the British election.

"The British election result reflects support for politics which combine economic development with social rights," said Persson in a press release.

"The British people have given the Labour government the mandate to continue for a further four years the ambitious and progressive policies which began in 1997."

Labour's victory was far from resounding, with the government's majority in parliament appearing to have been reduced from 167 seats to just 66. Tony Blair acknowledged that Britain's role in the Iraq war has been divisive but said he hoped after the election that the country could "unite again and look to the future - there and here".

The Conservative Party, led by Michael Howard, failed to seize the initiative on the key election issues of the health service, crime and jobs. All the main parties steered clear of making the European Union an election battleground, but Göran Persson said that Labour's victory meant that Sweden kept an important partner on the European and international stages.

"The British government's involvement means a lot for the efforts to meet the great challenges of our time: to create a strong UN, to expand the EU with new members, to fight poverty in the world and to work against climate change," said Persson.

"Labour's victory strengthens the support for the politics of growth, justice, the environment and international solidarity."

But despite Blair's record third victory as a Labour leader, Sweden's papers were somewhat less effusive.

Svenska Dagbladet said that the leader had had his "wings clipped", while Aftonbladet cried, "Bye, bye, Tony Blair".

The paper had not misunderstood the BBC's election graphics; rather, it noted that Blair's victory was the beginning of the handover to Labour's Chancellor Gordon Brown. This would herald a return to "more traditional social democrat policies with more social reformism" - something which would not have been possible without Blair's lengthy leadership, said the tabloid.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the leader of Sweden's main opposition party, the Moderates, said that Tony Blair had "written himself into the history books".

"He has turned a previously unelectable party into the natural party of government," he said. "Even if Labour has lost its massive majority in the House of Commons they have got renewed confidence from the voters."

"Blair has to live up to the promise to continue investing in work and business, just as in British welfare. I hope the [Labour government] has the strength to continue its path of reforms," he added.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet

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