Liberal leader: ‘I don’t like the extremes of either left or right’

The affable new leader of Sweden's Liberal Party claimed in his speech at the Almedalen festival that his party would act "an anchor in the middle" that would protect aid spending, asylum rights, gender equality, LGBT issues, and public service broadcasting in a coming right-wing government.

Liberal leader: 'I don't like the extremes of either left or right'
Liberal party leader Johan Pehrson collects flowers after giving his speech. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

In just three months as party leader Johan Pehrson has taken poll support for his party from 2.5 percent of the vote to well over the parliament’s four percent threshold, which, if the Green Party fails to get over the spar, might be enough to win the right-wing parties September’s election. 

“I’m a social liberal, an Örebro man, a lawyer, a businessman, a dad, and a bonus-dad (stepdad),” Pehrson said. “I don’t like the extremes, either on the right or on the left.” 

While he spoke about gang crime and segregation just as the Moderates’ leader Ulf Kristersson, and the Christian Democrats’ Ebba Busch had done, and proposed longer sentences for repeat offenders, in general his picture of what needed to be done came from a much more leftwing position. 

He said that criminals needed to be treated with both “steel fist and Lovikka [woolen] mittens”, both “forcefully and with warmth”. 

“All the youth who are at risk of going on a criminal path should be put in the classroom. Away from the grip of the gangs and into the magnetic power of learning”. 

“The best teachers should be attracted to work in the most socially vulnerable areas,” he added. “Make sure social workers are there at the police station. It’s not rocket science to know that cooperation needs to be really good when the problems are this big.” 

Just like Ebba Busch, Pehrson suffered problems with his teleprompter, but while she handled it quite coolly, Pehrson took a more maverick approach, sipping nervously from his water bottle, and mumbling a few disconnected sentences, and then bellowing at the top of his voice, “We will win the battle against social exclusion together! Or not at all! Let’s take the fight!”

He also made jokes, greeting applause at one point with the words “more applause, applause for me, please,” than 

The morning after Pehrson’s speech, Svenska Dagbladet reported that the Moderate Party had decided that the Liberals would not be part of their government, citing a source from the Sweden Democrats.

The Expressen newspaper than published a private message to Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group party leader, from Gunnar Strömmer, the party secretary, saying he was going to have words with SD “that they shouldn’t bloody well go and put words in our party leader’s mouth”. 

Pehrson on the other hand is clear that he wants to both be in the Moderates’ next government, and also for his party to have the education ministry. 

“This new government needs a new liberal education minister,” he said. 

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Swedish PM: Moderate Party’s property tax warnings ‘completely absurd’

Sweden's prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, has yet again denied that her party plans to bring back a property tax, calling the Moderate Party's decision to campaign on the issue 'completely absurd'.

Swedish PM: Moderate Party's property tax warnings 'completely absurd'

In a long interview broadcast on Swedish state radio broadcaster SR, Andersson stressed that her party had no plans to bring back the property tax abolished by the Moderate-led government back in 2008. 

“We are not going to campaign on the back of a property tax, have no plans to do it, and have shown over the last eight years that we are not doing it,” she said. “It is completely absurd that the Moderates are running their campaign about this for the third or fourth time in a row. They were cranking this out in 2014, 2018 and now in 2022, and we have not brought back the property tax.” 

When pushed by the interviewer, however, Andersson refused to absolutely rule out making any changes to Sweden’s system of property taxation. 

“If I start to draw red lines, I will risk creating an even more locked situation after the election,” she said. “But there’s no question over what I believe. If you don’t want to bring back property tax, you should vote for the Social Democrats.” 

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO, is in favour of bringing back the property tax, which it describes as “one of the best taxes”, as is the Left Party.

After the interview, Tobias Billström and Elisabeth Svantesson, the Moderate Party’s group leader and financial spokesperson, said that by refusing to rule out bringing back the tax, Andersson had justified their decision to campaign on the issue. 

“Unequivocal message from Magdalena Andersson today in P1 Morgon,” Billström wrote on Twitter. “If the Left Party wants property tax to be reintroduced, it will happen. There are no red lines from S.” 

“Bringing back property tax is on the negotiating table,” Svantesson wrote. “She has no red lines there. Important — but expensive — message for Swedish households.” 

Andersson did, however, say that the Social Democrats want to raise taxes, saying that the party planned to bring in a new tax to fund building back Sweden’s defence capabilities, a so-called beredskapsskatt, or “preparedness tax”. 

“So that this will not end up taking priority over schools, pensions, healthcare and elderly care, we think that those with the highest incomes should be able to pay just a little bit extra towards this,” she said, although she would not go into detail on how “highest incomes” would be defined. 

“But in the economic situation we are in, it’s not the time to raise taxes for ordinary households,” she said.