Top Liberal backtracks on Centre Party criticism

The Centre Party is becoming far too 'new Liberal', warned the Liberals' own party secretary Erik Ullenhag in a recent, highly critical, opinion article. Now he has withdrawn his comments.

“The article was a mistake,” he told TT.

One of the key factors in the Alliance victory in September’s election was their apparent unity. With the opposition – and media – ready to leap on any hint of a division, inter-party criticism has become almost taboo.

But writing on Dagens Nyheter’s opinion page in March, Ullenhag slammed the Centre Party’s proposals on market-rate rents, workers’ rights and reduced social benefits.

“Confidence in the Alliance as a whole is at risk if the Centre Party adopts the new liberal position that the Moderates have left behind,” he concluded.

The Centre Party viewed the article as an attack in some form of competition over which party was the most ‘social liberal’. Even within his own party, Ullenhag’s article met with criticism, reported Swedish Radio.

“My intention was to spark a discussion over where the Alliance is going in the long term. But the article was a mistake because it became more a debate about labels,” said Ullenhag.

Ullenhag refused to be drawn on whether he still stands by the contents of the article.

“I have spoken to Maud Olofsson as well as with the Centre party secretary, and we have agreed to put the article behind us,” he said.

But he did not want to say directly whether he had apologised to the Centre Party – or whether his own party leadership had forced him to apologise.

“I know that Lars [Leijonborg] shares the view that the outcome of the article was not good,” said Ullenhag.

Lars Leijonborg has refused to comment on the article since its publication.

When Ullenhag was asked how he would label Maud Olofsson today, he was evasive.

“She can label herself,” he laughed.