Tears of anger in Parliament

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s call for more love and solidarity after last summer’s terrorist attacks seemed all but forgotten on Wednesday, when a top opposition politician accused Stoltenberg’s Labour Party of “playing the role of victim” on the floor of Parliament. His offensive remarks left Labour Party politicians, who lost scores of colleagues in the attacks, hurt, angry and even in tears.

Per Sandberg, deputy leader of the embattled Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), made the remarks during “question hour” in the Parliament, a regular session held on Wednesdays. It’s unclear whether Sandberg was feeling particularly stressed after a a disastrous year for his party and the emergence of another sex scandal just this week. At any rate, he went on the attack.

Furious Foreign Minister
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported how Sandberg, speaking from the podium in Parliament, claimed the rival Labour Party has a “conscious strategy” for using the terrorist attacks to their own advantage, and to damage the Progress Party.

“Let me first ensure that no one is trying to play victim here,” Sandberg said. “If there is anyone who has played victim after July 22, it’s the Labour Party, to the highest degree. And they should, because they were one of the biggest victims.”

Sandberg’s comment sent a gasp through the MPs and ministers of the Labour-led government assembled, and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who was being questioned by Sandberg, was clearly furious. “I’m reacting that the MP (Sandberg) says that ‘Labour has played offer’ after July 22,” Støre said. “Labour was a victim after July 22. The party’s jewels, its youth, were indefensibly attacked.”

‘Unworthy and sad’
Some Labour politicians actually started to cry and headed straight for their offices to calm themselves when the session ended, also before. Politicians from other parties, also in opposition, reacted as well. Dagfinn Høybråten of the Christian Democrats lamented the lack of solidarity and common sorrow that Sandberg’s remarks represented, while party colleague Dagrun Eriksen called the session “unworthy and sad for our national assembly.”

“What upset our folks so much, was the accusation that we have played victim,” Helga Pedersen, deputy leader of Labour, told NRK. “We haven’t. We have lost many of our colleagues, but we are committed to an open debate of difficult issues.”

Sandberg later apologized, and said his remarks were part of his own reaction to a claim by the leader of Labour’s youth organization, Eskil Pedersen, that the Progress Party was abusing freedom of expression and contributing to a hate-filled debate on immigration. That had offended Sandberg and his colleagues.

“But I understand now that I formulated it such that Labour had played victim after July 22, and I of course, with humility, beg their pardon,” Sandberg told NRK.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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