Labour Party membership soars

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The bomber and gunman who attacked Norway’s Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) and the government it leads last summer wanted to cripple the party but the opposite has occurred. Labour is instead more vigorous and popular than ever, with new figures showing membership up 40 percent so far this year in Oslo alone.

Norway's Labour Party has repaired damage to its offices from the July 22 bombing and is experiencing record growth. PHOTO: Views and News

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Tuesday that both Labour and its youth organization AUF (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking) have seen big boosts in membership, especially after the attacks on July 22. Labour’s numbers have swelled by 11,214, with 7,961 new members joining the party after July 22. Around 1,400 of the new members have joined Oslo Ap, the local chapter in Norway’s capital city.

Labour had just under 50,000 total members last year, so the national growth rate amounts to around 23 percent. With a total of 1,820 new members so far this year, the Oslo chapter has seen membership rise by 40 percent.

The youth organization AUF has welcomed 4,000 new members since July 22, on top of the 9,600 it had from before.

“We’re looking at the strongest growth in membership ever,” Jan Bøhler, an active politician who leads Oslo Ap, told Dagsavisen. “Many have joined just in recent weeks, so the numbers are growing all the time.”

He said that a “surprising” number also show up for meetings and are willing to take on special duties for the party, showing they have “ambitions of being more than just passive members. I’m really glad for the new strengths this brings into Oslo Ap.”

More than 4,000 had joined before July 22, with many citing Labour’s workforce policies as the major motivating factor. Others, like 37-year-old Synne Dokka, told Dagsavisen she was merely inspired to support a party that played a key role in forming Norway’s social welfare state.

“Our society didn’t come free,” she told Dagsavisen. “People have to get involved.”

AUF leaders said 66 percent of those joining recently cited “Labour’s values” as the reason they wanted to become members. Another 56 percent cited Labour’s policies and 58 percent said they had voted for Labour in recent elections.

A sympathy factor may be involved as well, but it’s not specified. “We had expected more supportive members (after the attacks),” Labour spokesman Pia Guldbrandsen said. “”We think it’s very positive that people are joining because of values and politics.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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