Rank and file members of Norway’s Labour Party defied their leaders on several issues during their national meeting in Oslo over the weekend. They overruled the party leadership in voting to phase out fur farms, further boost public transit systems in Norwegian cities and officially recognize Palestine.
Popular Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his fellow cabinet ministers went into the important Labour Party meeting with unrivaled support and new poll results showing Labour to be the largest in the land. That didn’t mean his party colleagues would go along with all of his party leadership’s positions.
In addition to pushing through an historic veto of an EU directive to further deregulate the postal system, members voted to work towards a gradual shut-down of the Norwegian fur business (called pelsnæringen in Norwegian). Photos and video of injured animals running in circles in small cages deeply disturbed many Norwegians last fall, including politicians, and the fur industry has been under heavy criticism for years.
Animal rights groups had actively campaigned for a measure to push fur farmers out of business, by among other things halting the government financial assistance they can stand to receive. One group, Dyrevern Alliance, ran full-page ads in some Norwegian newspapers last week, urging Labour Party delegates to vote against support for the fur business.
The issue hasn’t been a major priority for Labour leaders but now they’ll likely face a tough battle within the coalition government, with coalition member Senterpartiet (the farmer-friendly Center Party) geared to support fur farmers. Stoltenberg will be under marching orders from his party members to urge fur farmers into other lines of work.
Labour members also won support for a proposal that the state take over responsibility for construction of public transit systems in Norway’s largest cities. “It’s historic that Labour now puts public transit on the same level as road building,” said the mayor of Trondheim, Rita Ottervik. “This will strengthen its environmental credibility.”
A majority of Labour Party members also pushed through a proposal that Norway “should lead support for development of a Palestinian state.” That hands Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre yet another controversial issue to deal with, at a time when Norway is under criticism over its role in the Middle East.