Swedish PM homes in on feminism in key speech

Swedish PM homes in on feminism in key speech
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven speaking at a meeting of the Social Democratic Youth League in Västerås on Monday. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven returned to the hot seat after the summer holidays on Monday with a speech referencing international feminist icons Lena Dunham and Emma Watson.

The Prime Minister was making his first public appearance since he was taken to hospital after falling ill on a plane from Ethiopia back to Stockholm last month.

Speaking at an annual general meeting held by the youth wing of his Social Democrat party, Löfven addressed the key theme of the congress, 'Equal Future' ('Jämlik framtid'), at length by arguing that increased equality generates growth and development.

“It is wrong to think that gaps spur. It is not correct that hungry wolves hunt the best,” he said, adding: “80 people today own as much as 3.5 billion people. How can a person own that much? How can a person own that little?”

READ ALSO: Who are the top dogs in Swedish politics?

Löfven, 58, also focused on Sweden's ever-trending topic of gender equality, highlighting young Swedish artist Zara Larsson and US writer and director Lena Dunham as important role models.

“Step up, make your voice heard and ask yourself: If not I, who? If not now, when?” he said, quoting actress Emma Watson, behind the United Nations' international feminist campaign #HeForShe, for which Löfven is one of the goodwill ambassadors.

“They are forerunners, they are opinion builders,” he said after the speech about the female trio.

“I think that you should use these role models because it is going to inspire more to make the leap and step up,” he told reporters.

Stefan Löfven addressing the Social Democratic Youth League. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Löfven's speech marked the start of a new political season in Sweden. Swedes tend to claim their summer holidays in blocks of four weeks over the summer, including top ministers. As a result, political activity has more or less lain dormant in the Nordic country since Almedalen Week in June.

But it comes just two weeks before his Social Democrat-Green coalition government is set to meet to prepare its crucial budget proposal for the coming year. Since the end of 2014, Löfven's government has largely been following the Alliance opposition's financial plan, after a political crisis in Sweden last December.

READ ALSO: What is Sweden's December Agreement?

“We will focus on the jobs. That's what we've been doing from the start,” the Prime Minister told reporters after Monday morning's speech, but did not elaborate further to present exact policy proposals.

The formal start of the politics season will be the opening of parliament on September 15th. Löfven has not commented on speculation in Swedish media that he is mulling an imminent cabinet reshuffle ahead of the ceremony.

Sweden's ministerial posts were the topic of hot debate last month after Löfven's hospital visit revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson had not been appointed as the official who would replace him at the helm of the government in the event of a crisis.

On Monday Löfven confirmed that he was back to full strength after acute nausea in the wake of a visit to Ethiopia saw him taken to hospital in Stockholm by ambulance in mid-July.

“It was food poisoning, quite simply. A powerful case of food poisoning. It's good to be able to say that, because that meant it quickly subsided as well,” the Prime Minister told the Expressen tabloid.