Reaction rolls in to platform priorities

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Critics were quick to blast the political priorities set by Norway’s incoming Conservatives-led government coalition Monday night. While new government leaders Erna Solberg and Siv Jensen stressed individual freedom, lower taxes and less bureaucracy, even their supporters in Parliament were surprised they didn’t mention the climate as a top issue.

Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats, which along with the Liberal Party signed an agreement to cooperate with Solberg’s Conservatives and Jensen’s Progress Party, told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday that the threat to the climate must be taken seriously. He was surprised it was left out of the eight top priorities that Solberg and Jensen highlighted in their joint government declaration Monday night after weeks of negotiations.

Missed mention
Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party agreed, saying she missed specific mention of the climate. “We have a lot of positive climate policies in our agreement,” Grande told Aftenposten. “Now it will be our job in the parliament to make sure the government’s policies get better.”

Hareide thought measures for fighting poverty also should have been mentioned: “Therefore I would have gladly seen that the government had 10 top priorities, not just eight.”

‘Blue-grey’
Opposition politicians were tougher in their criticism. “Eight priorities, climate not among them,” wrote outgoing environment minister Bård Vegar Solhjell of the Socialist Left party (SV) on Twitter Monday night. “The environment not among them, protection of the nature not among them. That makes things blue-grey,” Solhjell added, in a reference to the colour blue that symbolizes the non-socialist parties.

Both Grande and Hareide, though, were pleased over several points in the new government declaration, including more funding for teachers and expansion of a cash support system (kontantstøtte) that can help parents stay home with their children instead of placing them in day care. Solberg and Jensen need to keep both Grande and Hareide happy, to secure a majority in parliament.

Conservative politicians have also repeatedly promised “offensive climate policies” and already had announced that oil drilling in the Arctic will be more restrictive than it was during the left-center Labour-led government. Last week’s release of a new UN Climate Panel report, declaring that there’s 95 percent certainty that climate change has been created by human activity, will be taken seriously, claimed Nikolai Astrup of the Conservatives. Nor does he think the Progress Party will put the brakes on climate measures. Jensen’s sister Nina Jensen is, moreover, head of WWF in Norway and may have some influence.

Labour predictably negative
Labour politicians were predictably negative, with Eskil Pedersen of Labour’s youth organization AUF writing on Twitter that the government platform contains “Tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of schools, an attack on abortion rights, more Christianity in the schools, less paternity leave – that’s the past, not the future!”

Norway’s trade union confederation LO, meanwhile, decried new platform priorities that it claims will weaken workers’ rights. Employers’ organization NHO, however, called the new government platform “a change in direction for Norwegian politics. The new government will secure value creation and jobs.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund