British Tories hope to learn from Reinfeldt

British Conservative leader David Cameron is in Stockholm to seek advice from prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on how to eject a centre-left party in power for more than a decade.

At their meeting in Stockholm on Monday, Swedish journalists were struck by the similarities between the two men.

Close in age (Reinfeldt is 41, Cameron 39), both politicians have three children. They both took over their parties after three straight election defeats and moved them towards the centre-ground. Reinfeldt has previously addressed the Conservative party conference in a video message, but the two men had not met in person until Monday.

Cameron is hoping that he will be able to emulate Reinfeldt’s electoral success, and lead the Conservatives to victory at the next UK election. He is likely to face the UK’s current chancellor (finance minister), Gordon Brown, who is expected to take over after Tony Blair.

Like Reinfeldt, the Tory leader has tried to present a softer, more modern image than his predecessors. He underlined this on Tuesday morning with a visit to a ‘pappagrupp’ – a group for fathers who look after their children while their mothers are working.

Visiting the Scania truck factory in Södertälje, near Stockholm, on Monday, Cameron admitted that his party had focused too much in the past on tax cuts, but said they had a “more balanced position” now.

The Tory leader also talks about building upon what is good in the UK, rather than on demolishing the whole system. He is keener than many of his predecessors on focusing on the British National Health Service, for example.

Both Cameron and Reinfeldt have had to deal with internal criticism for reforms to their parties. How to deal with this may have been on the agenda when Cameron met with Moderate Party secretary Per Schingmann later on Monday.

At a press conference at Scania, Reinfeldt advised Cameron to focus on finding solutions to voters’ day-to-day problems – something that the British party leader admitted his party has been bad at.

Reinfeldt said that he could learn from Cameron’s involvement in climate change issues. The Swedish prime minister admitted that his party has been bad at talking about the environment.

“David Cameron has put a lot of work into developing climate and environmental questions. We have more to learn there. People have the right to expect more of the Moderates, and that we should also carry out our own review.”

The Conservatives are currently looking at questions such as how to promote biofuels, possibly through tax breaks.

Reinfeldt said he did not want to comment on the issue of lower taxes for greener fuels.

At Scania, the pair learned more about the truckmaker’s development of ethanol-powered buses and hybrid engines. The party leaders also test-drove buses and trucks, although Reinfeldt appeared at one point close to backing into the car containing his secret service bodyguards.

Cameron is not the first centre-right politician in Europe to take an interest in Reinfeldt’s success. The Swedish leader recently visited Angela Merkel in Berlin, and there has been steady contact between Moderates in Stockholm and the Austrian centre-right.

“Just the fact that a lot of centre-right parties are inviting Fredrik is evidence that there is interest in Swedish politics and the New Moderates,” Oscar Hallén, Reinfeldt’s press secretary, told The Local.