Top politician dies on the ski trail

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Inge Lønning, one of the most respected elders in Norwegian politics, died on Sunday while out skiing with his family in the mountains at Beitostølen. Lønning, who has been both a Member of Parliament and a dean of the University of Oslo, suddenly collapsed and efforts to revive him failed.

When Inge Lønning spoke, his party colleagues in Høyre fell silent, said several on Monday as they paid tribute to their party elder who died while out skiing with his family on Sunday. The veteran Member of Parliament and former university dean was 75. PHOTO: Høyre

When Inge Lønning spoke, his party colleagues in Høyre fell silent, said several on Monday as they paid tribute to their party elder who died while out skiing with his family on Sunday. The veteran Member of Parliament and former university dean was 75. PHOTO: Høyre

Lønning, a theologian as well as a politician, was 75 years old but still active in both the Conservative Party and in social issues. He took part in a broadcast debate for Radio Nova in Oslo just last week and also had been a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“It is with great sorrow that we received word that Inge Lønning had passed away,” Høyre leader and candidate for prime minister, Erna Solberg, said on Monday. She called Lønning an outstanding figure within academia, theology and politics in Norway.

“For Høyre, he has been an ideological cornerstone for generations,” Solberg said, adding that “on many occasions, he was the oldest in the room, but the youngest in mindset. He could enter any debate and take part with great rhetoric, historic knowledge, humour and commitment.”

Lønning, originally from Bergen, was a Member of Parliament for Høyre from 1997 until 2009, and served as vice president of the Parliament from 2005 to 2009. He was also Høyre’s deputy leader from 1998 until 2002.

Before that, he headed Europabevegelsen, the organization advocating Norway’s membership in the EU, and he was a major part of the EU debate leading up to the referendum on EU membership that was narrowly defeated in 1994.

Lønning also served as dean of the University of Oslo from 1985 until 1992, after serving as pastor in the 1960s in Bergen and as a top city politician for Høyre in Oslo in the 1970s. He was known as a champion of youth and human rights, as well as those suffering from psychological disorders. He addressed Norway’s Parliament last week and had been working on proposed refinements of Norway’s Constitution.

His death brought a flood of tributes from media commentators and party colleagues, who called him a pillar of their cause. “Inge loved to stand on the barricades,” Solberg said. “He will always be remembered.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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