Mikael Damberg, the spokesperson for the opposition Social Democrats in parliament, said that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt far too often discusses the economic crisis on the continent but forgets to tackle unemployment at home.
Government policy took aim at high growth in good times, Damberg said, before likening Reinfeldt’s tactics to poor waxing in cross country skiing.
“If Reinfeldt was head waxer for the national cross country team we’d be in trouble. The government has chosen wax for good times but they won’t have any traction when going uphill,” Damberg said.
Reinfeldt, who as prime minister opened the debate, focused on the European financial crisis and the risks facing Sweden in the year ahead.
“What’s important now is that we protect our competitiveness and readiness for an even worse crisis,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Jan Björklund said the Social Democrat idea that it is possible to raise taxes during a recession was illogical. He said that even the economist and leftwing darling John Maynard Keynes did not suggest such a tactic during bad times.
Damberg, who steps in for party leader Stefan Löfven who is not an MP, warned 35,000 Swedes risked losing their jobs this year.
“It would be dishonest to claim this is simple,” Reinfeldt replied, before outlining several “offensive measures” in the budget meant to tackle the dip.
The other party leaders were all given their turn to outline what they consider to be key issues in Swedish politics.
Green Party spokesperson Gustaf Fridolin said the government had not done enough to tackle climate change.
“Global warming will have untold consequences and cause human suffering before my daughter reaches pension age,” he said.
Fridolin, who also teaches at community college level, spoke at length about cuts to the public education system, with 12,000 children leaving compulsory education without adequate grades to go onto high school.
Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) leader Jan Björklund, who is also education minister, said that reforms to the school system would take time to show results.
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt instead took up what he says is a lack of support for women’s shelters across Sweden.
”Every year, 75,000 women are assaulted by their partner. There’s a lot to be done to protect these women, yet the shelters are full. When is the government’s promise to make things better going to come true?” he said.
The prime minister responded that the police had to introduce special violence against women units, and that a national coordinator had been assigned to monitor that task.
Sjöstedt and the Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund asked whether the Social Democrats supported the ban on profits in the welfare sector proposed by the Trade Union Confederation on Tuesday.
Damberg replied that the Social Democrats liked much of the proposal but underlined that it came from the unions.
Damberg also questioned why Hägglund was so reticent to probe profits in the state-funded welfare sector.
Centre Party leader and Enterprise Minister Annie Lööf decided to turn the tables on the opposition for its winter sports reference.
“The opposition’s line would be like competing in Vasaloppet backwards, with the wrong wax, and wearing Gustav Vasa’s old wooden skies,” she retorted.
The ensuing debate focused heavily on jobs and challenges ahead as the eurozone crisis meanders on, affecting Swedish exports.
The last of the party leaders, Jimmie Åkesson of the Sweden Democrats, decided to speak about how his party, long a pariah in Swedish mainstream politics, had become an acceptable partner when the other parties wanted to push legislation through parliament.
Social Democrat Damberg later in the debate pointed out that his party was not opposed to voting the same way in some key policy areas as the Sweden Democrats, but underlined that they did not share the immigration-critical party’s fundamental values.