Many of the new government ministers announced on Wednesday had been tipped in the media for weeks if not months, but there were nonetheless a few surprises, also among the state secretaries who rank just under the ministers in the world of political appointments.
Paul Chaffey, for example, was named as a state secretary in the new “super ministry” (Kommunal- og regional departement) that will be responsible for everything from municipal governments to information technology and government buildings. Chaffey is a former politician for the Socialist Left party (SV) who now will be working closely with Jan Tore Sanner, the newly named head of the ministry for the Conservative Party. Chaffey recently has been working with employment issues through the business organization Abelia, so clearly seems to have altered his political viewpoints.
‘Aftenposten’ editor joins government
Knut Olav Åmås, who’s been the high-profile culture editor at newspaper Aftenposten, was named as a state secretary in the ministry for culture. He’ll be reporting to new Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey of the Conservatives. His move marks a major career change, from the media to government.
New Health Minister Bent Høie of the Conservatives, meanwhile, has appointed 77-year-old Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg as one of his state secretaries. She’s a Norwegian psychiatrist who had major roles in the Conservative Party in the 1980s and ’90s who lately has been an outspoken advocate for the elderly. She’s also a former president of the Norwegian Red Cross.
Among the ministers, the appointment of Sylvi Listhaug as new Agriculture Minister from the Progress Party raised the most eyebrows. She’s viewed as an urbanist and once held a top post in the Oslo city government, but she was quick to point out that she grew up on a farm, has milked cows in her life and even is an odelsjente, the term used for a girl who stands to inherit a farm.
She left politics, though, to take on a highly paid job in the public relations firm First House, controversial because of all the top politicians and political aides now found on its staff. The firm is often accused of influence peddling and can command fees of up to NOK 5,000 an hour.
Listhaug will likely be taking a pay cut to join the government, but gets power in return. New Prime Minister Erna Solberg called Listhaug a good and details-oriented politician who’s also a bestemt dame (a determined woman). “We need more of them in government,” Solberg told state broadcaster NRK.