"We will eradicate child poverty"
The new leader of the Social Democrats Håkan Juholt made his maiden May Day speech as party leader on Sunday. In front of 450 people at a square in the medium sized town of Falun he spoke of how his party wants to eradicate child poverty, make pensions possible to live off, and review the deregulation of the railways, the electricity market and the airline industry.
There have been speculations as to why he chose not to speak in any of the country's bigger cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, like his predecessors always used to do. In Stockholm in particular, the Social Democrats have lost many voters in the past elections. Was his choice of venue an attempt to position himself in a more traditional, countryside version of the party? commentators wondered.
But Juholt claims he had promised to speak in the region of Dalarna (Falun and Borlänge) already during the election campaign last year, long before he was even thought of as party leader. By stickling to his promise he wants to show that he is a man of his words.
There has been mounting pressure for Juholt to present more political content, but apart from some talk of investment in health care and the music schools run by the local councils, to be detailed in Monday's shadow budget, the speech was more about pointing out a general direction for the party.
Juholt spoke warmly in favour of life-long learning and making the teaching profession more attractive. He wants a growth that builds on "people being able to work all the way to retirement" and he says he prefers seeing people as "citizens, not customers".
He did however show his hand when it came to a couple of policies that have been discussed within his party. For example, Juholt is not in favour of the red-green proposal to cut the sales tax for restaurants by half. This would give 3500 new jobs, but a similar investment in the teaching profession would lead to 9000 new jobs, he claimed. Juholt also lashed out against foreign education companies making profits from independent schools in Sweden and placing the revenues in "tax havens abroad". "We cannot accept this. We will put an end to it," he said, stressing that he did not want to limit parent's chances of choosing the education for their children.