AUF campers rally around Labour

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Record numbers of young Labour Party supporters defied rain and chill along the Tyrifjord on Thursday in a massive pep rally before the September national election. They cheered and applauded their leader Eskil Pedersen, as he attacked the two women leading Labour’s biggest opposition parties.

AUF leader Eskil Pedersen at the opening of the Labour youth organization's first national summer camp since it was the target of a massacre on July 22, 2011. PHOTO: Björn Lindahl

AUF leader Eskil Pedersen at the opening of the Labour youth organization’s first national summer camp since it was the target of a massacre on July 22, 2011. PHOTO: Björn Lindahl

“It’s a paradox that two women (Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg and Progress Party leader Siv Jensen) can end up leading the most anti-equality government for a long time,” Pedersen, the leader of Labour’s youth organization AUF, bellowed from the stage.

He also referred to the overweight Solberg as someone who “waddles” around and “stamps everything” she comes across with “freedom: Freedom for (wealthy businessman Stein Erik Hagen) from paying tax, freedom for private schools to earn money on students, freedom for Swedish youth to be unemployed, freedom for the oil fund from saving for the future.” Sporting a T-shirt reading “Frihet” (Freedom) himself, Pedersen seemed to think Labour had more rights to it than Solberg.

AUF's leader had an offensive tone when speaking at the Labour youth group's summer camp on Thursday, which has attracted record numbers of participants from around Norway. PHOTO: Björn Lindahl

AUF’s leader had an offensive tone when speaking at the Labour youth group’s summer camp on Thursday, which has attracted record numbers of participants from around Norway. PHOTO: Björn Lindahl

Pedersen’s choice of the word “waddles” brought a quick and sharp rebuke from his counterpart at the Young Conservatives, Paul Joakim Sandøy, who likened such language to someone still stuck in puberty. “He’s making a mistake if he thinks that kind of language (referring to Solberg’s obesity) will function in an election campaign,” Sandøy told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I think voters want to be taken seriously.”

AUF’s national summer camp at Gulsrud on the Tyrifjord is the first since AUF was the target of a lone gunman’s massacre at their previous camp on the island of Utøya. Pedersen initially declared plans to “take back” Utøya and rebuild after the massacre, but he’s met strong resistance from survivors of the attack and other AUF members who don’t want to return to the island.

“Gulsrud isn’t the same as Utøya, but it’s fine alternative,” Anette Davidsen, leader of AUF in Nordland County in Northern Norway told NRK. “It’s important that we take the time necessary to rebuild Utøya. It’s better to do it right than to do it quickly.”

Davidsen, who survived the massacre on Utøya, said she’s “put it behind” her and wants to simply enjoy the summer camp, “what we had before 2011.” Among those coming to speak will be Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Health Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

She’s glad so many young Labour supporters are taking part this year because “we want to gear up for the election campaign. Among the themes we’ll discuss are how to create the world’s best schools, to get more young people into jobs and, of course, how Labour and its coalition partners will win the election.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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