Björklund is new Liberal leader

Sweden's Liberal Party, one of the four parties making up the governing Alliance for Sweden, has formally confirmed Schools Minister Jan Björklund as its new leader.

Björklund is new Liberal leader

Speaking to the Liberals’ conference in Västerås, Björklund said he was “honoured, proud and happy,” that the party had put its trust in him.

Björklund takes over from Lars Leijonborg, who announced his resignation earlier this year after ten years in the job.

As Liberal leader, Björklund becomes part of the government’s inner circle, composed of the leaders of the four Alliance parties. He accepted criticism that the government, which has been trailing in the polls, had been bad at communicating its message. He quoted one political commentator who said that the government was “all action and no talk.”

“We have to put much more effort into explaining why we make the decisions we do,” he said.

Born on 18th April 1962 in Skene, near Gothenburg, he served as an army officer from 1982-1994, rising to the rank of Major.

Björklund started his political career in Stockholm, where he spent four years in charge of the city’s schools during the centre-right’s period in office between 1998 and 2002.

While he has served as a deputy chairman of the Liberals at a national level for more than ten years, Björklund’s career in national politics started in earnest when he became schools minister after the centre-right won last September’s election. He will now take over the more senior role of Minister for Education, while Leijonborg will take a more junior ministerial role in the Education Department.

In his last speech as party leader, Leijonborg admitted that “there have been days that were not much fun,” but said it had been exciting to serve for so long and to push forward policies he believes in.

“There are a lot of strong feelings today. This is the end of something I have lived with every day for ten years. Relief at shedding responsibility is mixed with disappointment that there was not time to carry out everything I wanted. But above all I feel grateful to have been your leader and pride at what we have achieved,” he told the conference.

Away from the leadership issue, one of the big questions to be raised at the conference is job security. MP Carl B Hamilton has put forward a motion proposing a weakening of job protection legislation. He wants it to be possible for ten people in each company to be able to be exempted from Sweden’s ‘first in last out’ redundancy rules. Currently only two people can be exempted.

Hamilton also wants the party to take a harder line on unions, arguing that industrial action must be proportional to the issue at hand.

The party will vote on his motions on Saturday, but Party Secretary Erik Ullenhag said the party’s board would oppose Hamilton’s motions.