Jobs dominate party leader debate

The leaders of Sweden's main political parties squared up to each other on Sunday night in the first live television debate of the election year.

Jobs, or the lack of them, were at the centre of the debate on TV4.

The alternative governments sat opposite each other. On the blue team was Fredrik (leader of the Moderates), Lars Leijonborg (Liberals), Maud Olofsson (Centre) and Göran Hägglund (Christian Democrats), while on the red-green team was prime minister Göran Persson (Social Democrats), Lars Ohly (Left Party) and Peter Eriksson (Greens).

Sweden’s ageing population and the ensuing difficulties of financing pensions and other social welfare was first on the agenda.

“We’re not going to be able to promise those born in the 1940s any great tax cuts. That’s the first difference this evening,” said Göran Persson.

He continued throughout the evening to emphasise that taxes are necessary for “equality and solidarity” in the financing of future welfare – and that the conservative alternative meant tax reductions of hundreds of billions of kronor.

Maud Olofsson rejoindered that the red-green coalition was blind to around a million Swedes who do not have a job to go to every day.

“It is in the left cartel’s Sweden that only 30% of immigrants in Rosengård have jobs. There is only one solution – jobs, jobs and jobs,” said Olofsson.

Every theme addressed by the debate – housing, globalisation, school, segregation versus integration – the debate returned to jobs and how more would be created.

“When it’s worse for the unemployed more jobs are created – like hell,” said Lars Ohly sarcastically, calling instead for 200,000 new jobs in the public sector.

The debate concluded with a game where the party leaders drew their opponents’ names out of a hat – and then had to say something nice about them.

“A nice person who I’ve learned to appreciate,” said Göran Persson of Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Lars Leijonborg drew Lars Ohly from the hat – an easy one, it seemed: “He supports Djurgården!” he said.

Maud Olofsson said she likes Peter Eriksson “because he’s green” while Eriksson repaid her in kind by describing Olofsson as “a cheerful terrier from Västerbotten”.

Perhaps the fun and games at the end left a false impression of chumminess, but all the participants seemed pleased with the debate.

Persson said he was pleased that the differences between the two blocs had shone through.

“The conservatives quickly slipped in the issue of tax cuts. We know that the Swedish people don’t want that,” he said.

Reinfeldt was happy that several different subjects had been covered.

“It became a good debate about schooling and that’s good. Every failure we now see is based in schools. The conservative alliance showed its advantage in educational policies,” he said.