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UK swoons over Swedish policy smörgåsbord

15 Mar 2013, 16:54

Published: 15 Mar 2013 16:54 GMT+01:00

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Friday's edition of the Economist contains an article entitled "A big crush on Sweden" which outlines why "many British politicians look longingly" at the country's policies and the success they've had.

"Over the past two decades governments led by the leftist Social Democrats or the Moderates have introduced—with cross-party support—reforms to Swedish education, health care, pensions and tax," the Economist explains.

"These have made a rich and well-run country even more so: on any ranking of national wealth, health and happiness Sweden comes close to the top."

While Prime Minister David Cameron and his conservative Tory colleagues admire Sweden's success in cutting taxes and privatizing parts of the welfare state, Labour head Ed Miliband is inspired by the country's "superb" childcare and smooth-running public services.

Nicholas Aylott, a British-born political science professor at Södertörn University near Stockholm, said it's easy to see why Sweden remains the object of UK politicians' affections.

"There's really something here for everybody," he told The Local.

"Market-oriented conservatives marvel at the macroeconomic policy reforms and reforms in public services like free schools, but there's also a lot left for centre progressives in terms of attitudes toward the family and the changing perceptions of traditional family roles."

It's also important to remember, Aylott points out, that Sweden's ability to withstand the economic woes that have plagued the rest of Europe has also turned heads.

"Sweden has done well during a time characterized by a rather miserable economic climate," he said.

However Alyott added that he's "instinctively sceptical" about how much of Sweden's success can be transferred to Britain.

While the Economist warns that the British politics lack Sweden's history of collaboration and consensus, Finance Minister Anders Borg hints that trying to be like Sweden without the country's brand of equality could backfire.

"If you’re not able to keep your society together you will have conflicts which will undermine your legitimacy," he told the magazine.

Alyott points to Sweden's publicly-funded, privately-managed free schools, which Britain has tried to emulate, as an example that demonstrates what works in Sweden may not work the same way in the UK.

"In Sweden, they've worked relatively well, giving parents increased choice and injecting a healthy dose of competition among education purveyors," he said.

"But in the UK, which is a more class-oriented society, it seems that free schools are mostly the preserve of chattering classes, benefiting primarily upper-middle class and upper-class families, as well as some religious groups."

Aylott doubts free schools in the UK will have the same "broad effect" they've had in Sweden, which has a much more equal and compressed society.

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But just because certain policy's effects in Sweden may not be replicated in the UK, that doesn't mean it's not worth experimenting.

"It would be equally absurd to assume everything in Sweden is totally irrelevant," he said.

"It's always worth looking into what works and trying to see what might work."

David Landes

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Your comments about this article

20:07 March 15, 2013 by Great Scott
Well David I must say we are winning the battles for poverty and the rich, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, Anders I and have worked around the clock on this. We have given all our friends great tax breaks while managing to cut back on spending for those who need it. Yes Fredrik we have made huge cut backs on hospitals too, like you we are now utilising the corridors and car parks to stuff patients in.

I really liked that Idea of yours where you get the people who can't find work to work for free, that really does give the rich that wondwrful feeling of greed, I take my hat off to you for that. We tried it in the UK but it was found to be illegal because it was against human rights. We have got to get around this one. Just think of the future, make every one unemployed then bring them in on free labour, just think of the profits companies can make and what I like best is we only need to give them what they need to survive on. Rock on Fredrik.

The other thing I must congratulate you on Fredrik is the way you call yourself the "new workers party", yes David the number of Muppets, sorry people we have fooled on this one is fantastic.

The only glitch I see at the moment David, is keeping our alliance parties together, it seems that here in Sweden some smart people are starting to see through us and that is a concern. We have two Parties that wouldn't make the grade now if there was an election now, so we are getting some of our super Muppets (whoops there I said it again) to dig up some dirt about the opposition (these fools will do anything for us). I know the feeling Fredrik we have the Liberals, I gave their leader a good job and they supported us, that's how we fooled the British public, not that they like it of course, but hey who cares about them. Well I David I would like to talk more but you know what it's like got to keep on screwing the poor and homeless.
23:25 March 15, 2013 by Opinionfool
Reinfeldt looks dubious about shaking hands with Camoron. Quite right too he might catch something or find that like many of the policies his watch has been stolen too. Never trust an English politician who offers you his hand; he as likely to throttle you as greet you.
00:33 March 16, 2013 by Kronaboy
@Great Scott

Regarding your comment on the issue of slavery, Cameron has once again decided to follow Sweden's lead; he will be restricting our right to legal redress, namely he's going to stop us from going to Court and getting his legislation overturned.
01:21 March 16, 2013 by Hamsterdam
As bigger c*nts as Cameron, George and IDS are: Jealous of Swedish do nothing politics? You must be joking.
01:48 March 16, 2013 by Kronaboy

You are missing the point it's not Swedish do nothing politics, it's Swedish National Socialism free from independent Judicial review.
19:57 March 16, 2013 by AquamanUK
Camer-loony is the Pol Pot, rightwingnut khmer rouge of the UK.

He attempts to turn our quad-ternary economy to a secondary economy by force of starvation and economic deprivation.

He made his make in history, which is his major concern - shame it will be for decimating the UK economy to suit his personal political rightwingnut Agenda.
00:22 March 17, 2013 by Kronaboy

He is neither right wing or left, he is the son of major league merchant banker capitalist, just like his deputy prime minister????
13:23 March 18, 2013 by Opinionfool

Quite right. Cam-moron is only in it for his own pocket despite his weasel words to the recent Cons spring conference.


Cam-moron is so right wing. What you failed to appreciate is that his deputy is too. It won't be long before Clegg realises he should "cross the floor of the House" and join the party of which he is so obviously a member: the rightwingnut party.
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