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26 July 2015

How the Nordic pro-White has stolen the left’s ground on welfare

Far-right political parties are making huge gains across Nordic countries as new champions of a working class alienated by the cosmopolitan left

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson celebrates his party’s gains at the general election last September. 
“The basis of the home is commonality and mutuality. A good home is not aware of any privileged or slighted, no darlings and no stepchildren. You see no one despise the other, no one who tries to gain advantage of others… In the good home you find compassion, cooperation, helpfulness.”
Per Albin Hansson, Swedish prime minister, 1932-1946

Every July, thousands of politicians, lobbyists and journalists desert Stockholm in a seasonal exodus of the well-connected. Their destination is Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, for a festival of politics that showcases the consensual virtues associated with Scandinavia. During Almedalen week, named after the park in the main town of Visby, Social Democrats rub along with Liberals, Conservatives, Socialists and Greens in the narrow medieval streets, competing for bar space, television interview slots and seats at myriad fringe meetings held throughout the day.

The mood is normally convivial, as befits a political elite at play before the summer break begins. But this year there was a palpable edge. On the Wednesday evening, bodyguards in dark suits and sunglasses were prowling around a main stage, on which a sniffer dog was searching. Police vans lined a nearby road.

The crowd that began to gather was notably different from the habitual Almedalen set – poorer, older and less fashionably dressed. Middle-aged couples from the south mingled with pensioners and the occasional skinhead. This was another Sweden, overwhelmingly provincial and, in these monied surroundings, somewhat self-conscious. It had assembled to listen to Jimmie Åkesson, the latest Scandinavian leader to take his party from the far-right fringes of politics to the mainstream.

Ostracised within the Swedish parliament, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats are the country’s fastest-growing political force. Before last September’s general election, one of their candidates had to withdraw when photographs appeared of her wearing a swastika armband. Such reminders of the party’s neo-fascist roots are a regular occurrence, but a substantial swathe of the Swedish electorate does not seem to care. The SD gained 12.9% of the vote at the election, more than doubling its share and making it Sweden’s third-largest political movement. Latest opinion polls put the party above 18%, snapping at the heels of the Social Democrats, who run an enfeebled minority government.

The pitch to voters was summed up by Åkesson in the runup to last autumn’s poll, when he tweeted: “The election is a choice between mass immigration and welfare. You choose.”

Ragna, a policewoman from Västerås, had travelled to Visby for the day to hear Åkesson. She believes that tweet got to the heart of the matter: “Instead of taking more and more people in, we have to take better care of the people who are already here,” she says. “We have housing shortages that mean our young people are trapped living with their parents. If times are tough and the state doesn’t have money, we have to think about our own people.”

Ignoring one lone protester waving an “SD = Racist” placard, Henrik Poulstrom, a 29-year-old accountant, shrugged off the idea that he might be following an extremist party. “They’re at the centre of the spectrum. They take their policies on immigration from the right and their policies on defending the welfare state from the left.” His father chipped in: “Åkesson wants to defend the way our society is. He thinks about things from a Swedish perspective.”

Åkesson joined the party in the bad old days of the mid-1990s, when its neo-Nazi associations were in plain view. The logo back then was a National Front-style flaming torch, in the colours of the Swedish flag. But when he appeared at Almedalen, wearing sharp glasses, an open-necked shirt, blue jacket and chinos, the 36-year-old Lund graduate resembled an ambitious mid-ranking company manager. Behind him was the new party emblem, introduced in 2006 – a soothing blue and yellow anemone hepatica flower, and the slogan: “Sweden’s Opposition.”

Three themes dominated the speech: the danger of Islamism, which Åkesson has described as “the Nazism of our times”; the need to stop the flow of refugees and asylum seekers – Sweden takes more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU country; and the desire to create a better society for Sweden’s children. Åkesson claimed that if the Sweden Democrats eventually claim a place in government, Swedish children would experience “the best childhood in the world”. As a taster, a more generous policy on pay for primary school teachers was unveiled. Schools and healthcare will, Åkesson stated, be a priority for any Sweden Democrats administration.

The entire article is accessible here.