Outspoken youth leader gives up

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Sandra Borch, the small woman who had big plans to modernize the farmer-friendly Center Party, has given up. She resigned her post as head of the party’s youth group, Senterungdommen, because she felt she was “wasting her time.”

A chastened Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete (center) had to make a full, unconditional and highly public apology to the leader of the party's youth group, Sandra Borch (left) after Navarsete lost her temper once again and yelled at Borch in front of young party recruits. Navarsete also had to promise that she would improve her leadership style. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete (center) had to apologize publicly to Sandra Borch (left) after Navarsete lost her temper once again and yelled at Borch in front of young party recruits last autumn. Now Borch is resigning as youth party leader, saying she still sees no sign that Navarsete will change her leadership style or priorities. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

That means of expressing herself quickly left her facing new criticism from party members but Borch made it clear she had lost faith that the party leadership would make the changes in strategy and “new thinking” that Borch feels are necessary.

“It’s not allowed to think new in the Center Party,” Borch, age 25, declared to several Norwegian media outlets on Tuesday. “Then you’re immediately considered a troublemaker who really should just leave. That’s the main reason I’m giving up.”

Borch said she won’t seek re-election as leader of the party’s youth group when it convenes for its national meeting in November. The changes she urges (like moving away from an emphasis on strict promotion of agricultural interests and special assistance for Norway’s outlying districts and towards paying more attention to local business development, seafood and maritime interests) probably won’t even be considered, she fears, “until the party falls below sperregrensen,” the level of voter support needed for representation in Parliament, currently around 4 percent.

The party only won 5.5 percent of the vote in last week’s parliamentary election, which Borch claims is one of its worst showings ever. Instead, though, party leader Liv Signe Navarsete “celebrated that like it was some great victory.” Borch left the party’s Election Night gathering in disgust.

Borch told newspaper VG that she felt like she had no support for her ideas from the party leadership, even though Navarsete had to publicly apologize to Borch last autumn after yelling at her in a meeting with new members of the youth group. Borch in turn has criticized Navarsete’s leadership style and instead aligned herself closely with the party’s outgoing Oil & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe, who also has fallen out with Navarsete on various issues including his strong support for oil drilling off Lofoten. Now he’s given up his seat in parliament and the government coalition of which the Center Party was a member has lost power, not least because of its poor election results.

Borch, who also had defied her own youth membership in backing Moe on the Lofoten drilling issue, thus faced the loss of one of her important party allies and Navarsete has shown little sign of easing her own grip on power within the party. Navarsete claimed she regrets Borch’s decision to leave, called it a “loss” for the party and said she was “certain” that Borch would some day return to national politics. Others supported Navarsete and fended off Borch’s criticism, just as they have on earlier occasions when Borch also has had to tolerate what she called “ugly” comments on her blog about her short stature and long blond hair.

“I don’t share her version of reality,” Jenny Klinge, one of Sp’s more high-profile politicians, told newspaper Aftenposten. “If there wasn’t more room for new ideas and criticism within the party, I would surely have been squeezed out.” Instead, Klinge claims she enjoys a “central role” and that Moe also will remain a force in the party.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund