Almedalen 2013

Almedalen Dispatch: staying past the canapés

Almedalen Dispatch: staying past the canapés
Almedalen political week is like a Midsummer smörgåsbord - just when you are all set to enjoy the meatballs you spot the strawberries and cream. In Tuesday's Dispatch Peter Vinthagen Simpson ponders staying beyond the refreshments.

Harvard heavyweight Niall Ferguson began his presentation on Monday by comparing Almedalen to the legendary rock festival Glastonbury, but for politicians. Pony-tailed finance ministers notwithstanding this is a comparison that is seldom made.

Observing Sweden’s Riksdag is like watching cricket – you could sit there for five days and not a lot happens, then someone scores a rhetorical six (home run in American parlance) while you were reading the programme.

Almedalen political week is the polar opposite – at least on paper. There is simply so much happening every hour of the day – and this is July, there is a lot of day – that one comes to expect a home run response to every question pitched.

It is easy to develop a case of attention deficit disorder especially as Swedish politicians tend on the whole to be more like opening batsmen – giving little away and preferring the patient accumulation of points on the board.

The question surely on everyone’s lips this week will be: What will make me stay past the canapés?

A couple of years ago the Feminist Initiative burned 100,000 kronor ($15,000) in hard cash – now, that would have been worth waiting for.

On Monday Russian activists from Pussy Riot stole Jimmy Åkesson’s headlines by making an impromptu call in Visby – now, that would have been worth waiting for.

For some reason I am reminded a little of the iconic painting by Swedish artist Peter Tillberg entitled “Will you be profitable, little friend?”.

Critical of wage slavery, Tillberg’s painting is a comment on whether the kids will pay off the investment in their education, but could easily be applied to political debate: “Are you a meatball or a cream-laced strawberry, little friend?”.

With 2,035 items remaining on the programme there will be plenty of space left for both.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

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Almedalen Week explained

Almedalsveckan first began in 1968 when Sweden’s then prime minister, Olof Palme, was due to take the ferry home from a summer holiday in Gotland.

Local residents asked if he could stay a moment and give a speech. Standing on the back of a nearby truck, Palme spoke to the small crowd, thus beginning what was to become an annual Swedish tradition.

43 years on, things have evolved enormously and the event has become a platform for Swedish politicians from every party to have a voice.

It is however also a week for the humble citizen and thousands flock to the island to participate in the workshops, speeches, seminars, and the mingle parties.

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