“He is aware, like the opportunist that he is, that he has lost this debate,” said Persson on a visit to Greenland.
The conservative alliance’s disunity over the thorny question of sick pay came under the spotlight during Folkpartiet’s national conference over the weekend.
The party’s leader, Lars Leijonborg, proposed that sick pay should be held at 80% of salary if the alliance is to build a government after the 2006 election.
But the other conservative parties responded with a flat no.
“This is the cornerstone in the Moderates’ economic policy and you don’t just turn away from that. Then you don’t have an economic policy,” said Persson.
Earlier in the year the Moderates ruffled feathers with their proposals for lower levels of sick pay combined with more ‘qualifying days’ – the time a person must be off sick before being eligible for sickness benefits.
“But the main economic thought behind the proposal is really to lower salaries,” claimed Persson.
The conservative alliance will meet in Bankeryd at the end of this month and the sick pay policy is bound to be high on the agenda.
Persson maintains that his main rival for the job of prime minister next year, Fredrik Reinfeldt, would bend over backwards to unite the economic policies of the opposition alliance.
“And then all that remains is tax cuts – and the Moderates usually don’t let them go,” said Persson, who was speaking onboard a large shrimp trawler in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk.