Sweden’s Centre confirms move to the right

Sweden's Centre Party, for many years close to the Social Democrats, cemented its position on the right of Swedish politics at a conference where party members approved policies to limit the power of the trade unions and to reduce tax on alcohol.

The stamp of party leader Maud Olofsson was clearly visible as the meeting kicked off on Saturday. Olofsson led a parade of party members through Stockholm, with activists carrying banners vowing that they were marching into “Maudern times”.

And as the three day congress closed on Sunday there was a demonstration of the most important decision she has made as leader, as she welcomed the other leaders of the right-wing alliance onto the stage.

The Moderate Party’s Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Liberals’ Lars Leijonborg and the Christian Democrats’ Göran Hägglund turned up to demonstrate the new-found unity of Sweden’s Right.

Olofsson has become a standard bearer of the “Alliance for Sweden”.

“We’re a gang that likes being together,” she said.

The right-wing show of unity was perhaps a fitting symbol for a conference at which the Centre Party had approved a range of policies that underlined its right-wing message.

Perhaps the most striking of these policies was the proposition to ban sympathy action by trade unions. Unions are currently allowed to launch strike action in support of workers in industries other than their own. The new policy from the Centre would ban this for workers in companies that have signed collective agreements.

This policy contrasts with that of the Social Democratic government, which is currently arguing – fruitlessly – at the EU level that the right to sympathy action should be extended, so that workers can take sympathy action in support of strikes in other countries.

The Centre Party conference also agreed to work for reductions in alcohol tax. A motion, supported by the leadership, was passed to that effect, but only after heated debate on the conference floor.

The party’s social policy spokesman was among those opposing a reduction in the price of beer, wine and spirits.

“I argue, and all research shows that if you increase access to alcohol you increase consumption – and thereby increase the damage done,” argued Kenneth Johannsson, but his viewpoint was voted down by party members.

There was one issue, however, in which the party was unwilling to move – the Centre’s long-standing opposition to nuclear energy. A proposal by the party’s youth movement for the Centre to drop its anti-nuclear line was defeated.