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Swedish PM echoes New Labour in May 1 speech

Published tisdag 2 maj kl 12.12
Political commentator: Löfven is trying to do what Tony Blair did
(4:18 min)
Stefan Löfven takes to the podium on May 1
Stefan Löfven takes to the podium on May 1 Credit: Emil Langvad/TT

In his speech on the international labour day, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven promised an extra billion kronor to help cut the queues in the health care sector. But his speech also signalled a move to the centre ground.

Ewa Stenberg, political commentator for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, said Löfven's tough statements on crime and security seemed aimed at voters to the right of his party.

He's trying to do what New Labour did (in the UK) and what the Moderates did." 

"They have more confidence, the Social Democrats, and they realise that if they should grow more before the next election, he has to connect to the voters who are more liberal."

International Labour Day is a bank holiday in Sweden, which means the traditional Labour Day demonstrations are generally well attended. With Monday's sunny weather, this year was no exception, with the Social Democrats, the trade union confederation LO, and the Left Party generally drawing most people to their respective demonstrations around the country.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven marched in Landskrona and in Malmö in the south of the country. His main themes were security, welfare and the future.

"We in the Social Democrats should strive to stand for both sides," he said.

Both tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. Both work as a duty – and the right to strong welfare."

This soundbite was exactly the one used by Tony Blair to outflank the Conservative Party in the UK in the earliest days of New Labour, Stenberg said.

The move to the centre is partly a result of Sweden's conservative Moderate Party's shift to the right, she added. 

"There really is an open space for the Social Democrats and also for the Liberal parties, and that is what Stefan Löfven is trying to take," she said.

But she warned that the move is a gamble, risking a fracture with the Left Party, the Social Democrats' long-term allies, with no guarantee of splitting the four-party centre-right Alliance and so opening the way to a deal with the Centre and Liberal parties.

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