Prime minister, Göran Persson, believes the conservative alliance’s promises to make sweeping tax cuts plays into his hands with the election just over a year away.
Yesterday, the four conservative parties agreed to make income tax cuts equivalent to 45bn kronor. They will seek to finance the policy by reducing reducing unemployment benefit and sick pay.
Persson took the opportunity of a press conference called to make announcements in connection with the Social Democrats’ forthcoming congress to give his reaction to the conservative initiative.
“Their proposal is very clear and demonstrates exactly the kind of things we’ve accused them of in the past. The election will be fought on our social model. If the conservatives win and get the chance to attack sick and unemployment benefit, that’ll just be the beginning. This gives us the kind of election campaign we want.”
Persson responded by announcing some new initiatives from the Social Democrats: raised upper income thresholds for maternity and paternity pay and increased sick pay. They will also seek to alter the threshold for unemployment benefit so that more qualify to receive the maximum benefit of 80% of their latest salary.
“We live in a new age where no one has protection, so we must have good insurance and a safety net even for those with good salaries,” explained the prime minister.
The Social Democrats also intend to invest more in health and care. Health minister, Ylva Johansson, was at her boss’s side to announce a senior couple’s guarantee so that elderly couples won’t be forced to split up when one becomes ill and has to move into a home.
Not surprisingly, a conservative representative was poised to make an immediate riposte to the Social Democrat announcements. Center party leader, Maud Olofsson, called the measures “very traditional social democratic policies.”
“The Social Democrats are trying to bribe voters with public sector reforms and nobody knows how they’re going to be paid for,” she said.
She warned that the government is risking building up a huge deficit which future generations will have to pay for. She contrasted that with the conservatives’ emphasis on job creation.
“There’s a clear ideological difference. We’ll see to it that there are jobs to go to first,” she said.