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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Sweden’s Moderates call for state to foot private energy bills

The opposition Moderate Party has proposed that the government contribute towards households' electricity bills this winter, as electricity prices are expected to rise.

Sweden's Moderates call for state to foot private energy bills

The party propose a high-cost protection or högkostnadsskydd similar to that found in Norway, where the state would cover a percentage of all costs over a certain figure.

It’s not clear how the system would be work, but the Moderates’ finance spokesperson Elisabeth Svantesson provided a possible example.

“You could expect the state to pay for 75 percent of the cost of everything over one krona per kilowatt hour,” she said.

Her example would mean cutting around 6,000 kronor off the energy bill for a family in Norrland.

“No one should be forced to leave their home this winter because of an electricity bill,” she said.

The cost to the state, if this model were to be adopted, would be 15 billion kronor for a three-month period.

In addition to this, the Moderates are pushing for expansion of Sweden’s nuclear power production, as well as increasing the discount on building solar panels from 15 to 20 percent.

Svantesson also proposed that this discount be expanded to include other environmentally friendly alternatives, such as the installation of air source heat pumps.

“It would both lower electricity consumption and increase electricity production,” she said.