A former, longtime member of the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) claims in a new book on his life in politics that new female Members of Parliament (MPs) have been routinely bullied. Such charges aren’t taken lightly in a country that prides itself on being egalitarian.
Magnus Stangeland of the Center Party has most recently been in the news after being charged with pension fraud. He was convicted, along with former fellow MP Anders Talleraas of the Conservative Party (Høyre), but has appealed the conviction and his 60-day prison sentence.
Now he’s back in the news as the subject of a book on his political career, and in it, he lashes out at what he calls a culture of harassment directed at young female politicians.
“It was a climbers’ society deluxe,” Stangeland told reporters and the author of the biography, Bergens Tidende journalist Olav Garvik. “It was most widespread within the Labour Party, but there were others who felt it, too.”
One former Labour Party MP and government minister, Karita Bekkemellem, has confirmed the bullying, which she says took the form of either being made to look ridiculous or by being ignored by fellow politicians. “There could be reactions or comments made about your appearance, your clothes, that type of thing,” Bekkemellem told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Bekkemellem often landed in the papers with photographs of the dresses she wore to official government functions, not least state dinners at the Royal Palace. At times she seemed to enjoy the media attention, but now she says it could amount to harassment.
Stangeland said politicians would bully others, also from within their own parties, to enhance their own positions, “to climb at the cost of others,” he told NRK. He claims it also affected the head of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, when she first arrived at Parliament as a new MP from Bergen.
“There wasn’t only nice talk behind her back in the corridors,” Stangeland said.
Solberg quickly denied she’d been the target of any harassment, saying she didn’t share Stangeland’s observations at all. Stangeland served in Parliament from 1985 to 2007, when he retired and then started collecting pension payments now deemed to have been excessive.