Farmers (Senterpartiet)

Unlike many other countries Norway still has a mainly agrarian party, orginially quite literally named ‘The Farmer’s Party’ it is now misleadingly called the Centre Party.

It is a peculiar name because this party holds some quite left-wing views such as being against free-trade and using the state to make sure people are forced to live in places with three men and a dog. But, then it also has some quite right-wing tendencies of being almost pathetically nationalistic and reactionary against any change in the political order. They are also competing with the far-right populist to be tougher on immigration.

So, I suppose they are the centre in the sense that left and right could average out to become the centre, but it is still quite a misleading name (misleading names is something of a thing for Norwegian political parties)

For the sake of ease, I will refer to them as the Farmers’ Party, mainly because that pretty much sums them up. Like many of the other smaller Norwegian parties, they are essentially a pressure group. In this case they lobby for the boonies in Norway. Their pet project is the cheese toll trade barrier. It is designed to ensure that Norwegians never get to taste Cheddar, Bree or any other of the other processed dairy products that make life worth living.

Labour (Arbeiderpartiet)

The “Workers’ Party”, as they are somewhat anachronistically named, tries hard to conceal the fact that it no longer contains any actual workers. The party does have a proud history of ruling Norway and making society-altering improvements for the common man, woman and sloth. But, these days its members are mainly well-educated ambitious types, who are in the party more because it will inevitably back in power one day, than fighting class injustices.

Recently Labour has adopted a more hard-line approach on immigration in order to try to attract some of the more unreflected masses over from the Populists. It’ll be interesting to see how well this strategy works, and how much the pro-immigration Socialists may benefit from Labour’s position.

Similar to the Labour Party of the UK there is a growing gulf between the moralising trendy elite in the capital and their traditional base. In fact, a direct comparison of Norwegian Labour and UK Labour would be a great idea for a post! Watch this space.

The Socialists (Sosialistisk Venstreparti)

The leaders in the Socialist Party like to think that their membership is made up of the proletariat: decent hard-working people hewing the wood and all that. In actual fact the Socialists consist of a motley crew of tired academics in cardigans and young postgraduates working in coffee shops.

This odd mix of dishevelled 68ers and young types leafing through the latest charity shop to open in the trendier parts of Oslo, love nothing better than discussing the plight of the working class while sipping a fine Bordeaux or looking up the next charity shop on their smart phone.

Currently around 4% on opinion polls, they could play this party important role in the next election. Having said they won’t necessarily sit in a government with the Labour Party, they have potential to grow as disillusioned Labourites are scared away due to Labour’s hard-line immigration rhetoric. Then again they could become completely invisible because Labour is more interested in courting the centrist Christians, than in worrying about what a bunch of not-so-trendy lefties think.

A year to go to election day!

There’s now less than a year left until parliamentary elections in Norway (I know, I’m excited too!) The Philososloth will be covering all the leisurely twist and turns of the election as we gear up towards the big day.

In order to kick things off, I will open with a series explaining who the main parties are and what they stand for. Then I will explain some of the various coalitions that could be formed after the next election, maybe even touching on an in-depth explanation of the D’Hondt system of proportional representation.

In other words it’s going to be a wild ride. Buckle up!

Why Brexit?

On the 23rd of June this year the Brits rather upset political pundits, betting markets and our international allies by voting to leave the EU. I will save the reasons for this decision for another post (/rant), but I thought I’d start this jolly (and not at all bitter) series by laying out why Britian decided to hold a referendum in the first place.

In the heady and blissful days of 2013, the Conservatives were in a coalition government with the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems are pretty relaxed about the EU, but the Conservatives have always been rather divided on the issue of Europe, to put it mildly.

The Conservatives were facing an electoral challange from a smaller anti-EU party called UKIP. In fact, in 2013 it seemed like the Labour Party’s best chance to win an election would be the Conservatives losing votes to UKIP and pro-EU Labour coming through the middle.

So in darkened smoke-filled room the Conservative elite figured out an ingenious strategy: They would promise to hold a referendum on EU membership if they won the 2015 election. If you wanted to leave the EU, they argued, you shouldn’t vote for the anti-EU party, but for the Conservatives, because then you would get the referendum you so badly craved, and if Labour won there would be no referendum.

The then Prime Minister could tell older provincial people that he had their back while telling financiers, who were reasonably worried about planting a bomb under the UK economy “No worries, we’ll win the referendum, unite the party, cut your taxes and reach for the champagne.” Nudge nudge, wink wink. All good so far.

It also seemed likely in 2013 that the Conservatives would need the support of the Lib Dems to stay in power after the 2015 election. The Lib Dems would never support a referendum on EU membership, because they’re imminently sensible and don’t have a wing of xenophobes harking back to the days of empire. (Comes with the liberal turf, I suppose).

It seemed, then, that this was a great, low risk strategy to win voters. However, it turned out the plan worked a little too well. Partly as a result of their carefully designed message, the Conservatives won the election, had to hold the referendum and managed to lose it!

That is briefly how we came to have a referendum. In coming posts I will explore more deep-seated reasons for why the UK, usually so content with following authority sent a massive two fingers up to Conservatives and their crew of high financiers and political elite.