Norwegian Labour-led government behind opposition Conservatives in election race

Norway's Labour prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

All the opinion polls in Norway are predicting huge electoral gains for the Conservative opposition and the right wing ‘Popularists’, and huge losses for the Norwegian Labour party. On the 11th of September 2023, the people of Norway will go to council and regional county council polls. This is the first set of elections since the Norwegian Labour Party (AP) came to power two years ago, in a coalition with the Center Party (SP).

According to the opinion polls, the NLP (AP) is going to lose a high percentage of its mandates and many labour mayors in the major cities. The main reason for these forecasted results is the massive increase in the cost of living. A study based on a family with two children found that the household budget has increased by 30% in three years. Inflation is now at an all-time high.

The voters in the general election two years ago had just seen the end of the conservative government after eight years in office, the easing of the Covid pandemic, and the dark black clouds of inflation and austerity were just on the horizon.

There had been a successful (from the ruling class’s point of view) eight years of where the right wing parties removed 42 milliard kroner (four billion pounds sterling) from the national communal budgets and gave this as tax rebates, mainly to a few.

Two years ago, in 2021, the Norwegian Labour Party (AP) went  to the national elections with the slogan of “now it’s our turn!” reflecting the mood in the trade unions, among the pensioners and the poor. What we saw was the NLP (AP) turn away from the red-green parties of the left and enter a coalition with the Center party (SP). The Socialist Left (SV) and the Red Party (Rødt), with their clear profile on environmental issues, were not palatable for the Norwegian Labour Party and is coalition partners. This coalition claimed that the trade unions would not accept any closures in any of the Norwegian oil fields.

The Center party

The Center party, which used to be called the Farmers’ Party, was two years ago, and still is, in difficulties with its support base.

The Center party felt it necessary to continue with its ‘centrist’ politics, of appeasing big business, and the NLP (AP) chose to go along with it. The Center Party leader, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, said throughout the election campaign that he did not want to govern with the Socialist Left Party. At the present time, the Center party is getting ripped in two because one its main ideological thinkers has been caught up in a scandal. Its former ‘research and higher education’ minister, and deputy leader of the Center Party, admits to having broken the government’s ethics regulations when he traded shares in the partially state-owned company arms manufacturer, the Kongsberg Group. The trade took place just before the government entered into a giant arms agreement with the Kongsberg Group. He was sacked and in disgrace.

The Labour Party

The Norwegian Labour Party electorally is in free fall. Having promised to help working people and pensioners, students and the poor, the Labour Party is in fact making them pay for a system that is letting them down. In previous articles on the CWI website have we documented the ways that the normal people are having their life savings and pensions diminish before their eyes.

Huge increases in the cost of electric power (previously the price of electric was meant to be affordable) have taken place since the industry was sold off by the Conservatives to the highest bidder, in the name of the EU and neo liberalism, and in a country where hydroelectric power is the only major source of energy for most households. Norwegian winters can see temperatures as low as -10 to -35 degrees centigrade. Many of the pensioners use up a lot of their pensions on heating bills. The electric companies are selling for profit. The Labour Party did implement some refunds to help industry and some people, but this was the government subsidising, with tax payers money. In other words, helping these electric companies get back to making even greater profits.

The cost of mortgage repayments is getting harder, day by day, for many people. It is referred to as the “biggest bank robbery ever”.  More people are forced to use food banks and soup kitchens. Ukraine war and the giant influx of refugees has completely overwhelmed the housing situation in Norway. Students starting back after the summer break and are being forced to pay huge fees for overcrowded bedsits. At least one important convalescent home has being closed, and yet the Labour coalition government can find money to buy tanks for Ukraine (they are planning on sending four tanks – the money used on each tank could save or buy two convalescent homes).

The leaders of the Labour Party have lost touch with, or have decided to overlook, the plight of the poor. In their election literature they claim they have increased pensions and unemployed benefits, but they did not do anything about the mortgage rates, the price of food or the cost of heating.

  • Make the rich pay for the cost-of-living crisis!
  • A massive social housing programme, to bring jobs and end homelessness.
  • The nationalisation of the top supermarket chains, democratically run by workers, unions, and the local community, to ensure everybody can eat affordably
  • To see the profits of the big banks – open the books! Nationalise the banks and insurance companies, under democratic workers’ control and management
  • Renationalisation of the energy industry
  • Huge government investment at regional and municipal levels, so that all the jobs lost can be re-gained, and affordable and properly functioning public services resumed.
  • A 35-hour working week, without loss of pay
  • Reverse government cuts at council level
  • For workers’/trade unions’ led mass campaigns to reverse climate change – socialist change to save the environment the voters would welcome all these sorts of measures, alongside a full programme for socialist change.

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August 2023