It’s ‘official:’ Labour ‘was too unclear’

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The Norwegian Labour Party released its official assessment on Monday of what went wrong in their parliamentary election campaign this year, after asking their 55,000 members for their opinions. Just under 10,000 responded, and the consensus blamed a lack of clarity in getting Labour’s message across.

Labour Party Secretary Kjersti Stenseng wore black when she first addressed top party officials after they lost the parliamentary election on September 11. She’s been leading efforts to find out what went wrong ever since. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet/Bernt Sønvisen

“The feedback is mostly that we have been too unclear,” Labour Party secretary Kjersti Stenseng said on Monday morning’s Politisk kvarter radio program on NRK. She also said Labour failed to state clearly why party leaders advocated a major tax hike and how the additional NOK 15 billion it would have raised over the next four years would be spent.

“We weren’t good enough at clarifying why a tax increase was necessary,” Stenseng said. “The tax increase itself became the issue, and not the welfare, additional teachers and more elder care it could bring.”

Stenseng also said that the “overall reasons as to why Labour wanted to assume government power, and what policies we promoted, were not made clear enough and thus made us vulnerable to other issues and agendas that took the focus away from the Labour Party’s politics.”

In addition to the tax issue problem, member feedback indicates Labour also failed to better address issues that were important in Norway’s rural areas, from municipal reform to looming closures of military bases. Labour thus lost many voters to the rural-friendly Center Party regarding what’s called “district politics” in Norway.

Stenseng based her analysis on the 9,530 message the party received from disappointed members. She spent the weekend compiling a report based on the members’ feedback.

Her report notes that too much attention was directed at things other than Labour policies, including public opinion polls and the political agendas of other parties, “and then it was difficult for us to get our message through, pure and simple.”

Media attention on Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre’s own private economy and questionable investment projects also distracted and diverted the party, which was unprepared to deal with the problems Støre’s financial affairs raised. “The consensus is that those issues weren’t so critical themselves, but they should have been addressed and taken care of well before the election,” she said.

Asked what consequences the failed election campaing would have, since it led to Labour’s worst election results in many years, Stenseng said the party’s leadership, central board and everyone who worked on campaign election strategy are all responsible.

“It must have political and organizational consequences,” she said, as the party already slips into power struggles and internal dissent. “That’s what we’ll be discussing today,” she added, as the party’s central board huddles yet again to go over her report. The question now, she noted, “is what we can learn from this.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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