The Populist had a very nasty shock when they entered government three years ago. Before coming into power, they had been promising more welfare, less taxes, more workers in healthcare, and unlimited use of Norway’s oil reserves. And, alarmingly enough, their leader became Minister of Finance.
Luckily some dull, stolid chaps at the Treasury sat her down and carefully explained that her policies were unworkable. Now their leader seems to be leading an exhausting double-life of keeping the maniacs in her party’s grassroots under control and appearing to be a responsible member of government.
Unfortunately, the recent refugee crisis has led to a knee jerk reaction meaning the Populists have been able to force through some bans on being humanitarian and showing compassion. The Conservatives and Labour Party, in fear of being accused of having a backbone, are on board with this agenda, leaving the smaller parties powerless to do more than ‘tut tut’ in the background.
The Conservative Party’s base is poshies living around Oslo who don’t want too much change from one election to next, but maybe want to pay a little less tax on daddy’s yacht and the family’s second second home.
They’re not very conservative from a UK perspective (or any perspective really) and manage to temper monetary self-interest with a sensible social justice focus. In fact, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have become increasingly similar, and like many other countries the two largest parties only really exist in opposition to each other. The policy differences aren’t that big, but they have to pretend they are in order to create a little excitement around election time.
Their leader, the current Prime Minister of Norway, is agonisingly competent; it’s hard to imagine her lying awake at night worrying about the next big debate. She knows exactly what to say and how to spin it for the government. Listening to her paper over the cracks between sensible conservatives and nutty populists in her administration is impressive.
Being green was supposed to be the Liberals big thing. Now, however, there’s an actual party called the Greens, who haven’t jumped into coalition with the least environmentally friendly party on the market.
Supporting the Conservative-Populist government, the Liberals are having a hard time selling themselves as progressive and of any use in Norwegian politics. They have taken a tumble in the polls and are dangerously close to the 4% threshold one year out from the election. A leaked memo from their party headquarters read: “Existentialist crisis: Rethink meaning of it all!”
The Christians have prided themselves on being twenty years behind the prevailing debate in Norway. Be it abortion or gay marriage, on all sensible, progressive ideas the Christians have dragged their feet and tried to prevent Norway moving out of the 19th century. Fortunately they have been unsuccessful, and have, with some aptness, been dubbed “the party of lost causes.”
Being fair to the Christians they are caught in an awkward position between being resolutely reactionary to please their solid, ageing and shrinking base, and moving with the times on social issues. There are encouraging signs that the party elite is of a modern progressive bent. For example, their leader attended Gay Pride Oslo shortly after the Orlando shootings, and has expressed sympathy with Syrian refugees.
Reactionary and deeply moralising, but with a fundamentally humanitarian bent that any sloth can appreciate, the Christians are an odd mix.
This party has emerged out of nowhere in the last few years. Doing well in the government elections three years ago, and getting into local government in Oslo last year, it seems these bean-eating greeenies are here to stay.
It proved relatively easy to attract a base of support from young idealistic voters, and the Greens lack of firm policies means that the young’uns can read what they like into their fist-waving slogan “Be green!”
It also means they can look left and right for political support. Though having only one MP the other parties aren’t yet that interested, meaning they have plenty of time to enjoy wandering around the palaces of the mighty, wearing sandals and pistachio-coloured shirts, nibbling celery and trying to locate increasingly elusive policies.
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.
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.