Geir Lippestad, the Norwegian lawyer who sprang to international fame when he defended confessed terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik last year, has been named chairman of the new left-leaning think tank Agenda. Lippestad’s first job will be to hire someone to manage the think tank on a daily basis.
“I look forward to take on this new assignment,” Lippestad told newspaper Dagsavisen, which was the first to report on the founding of the think tank last month.
The goal, Lippestad said, is to offer a new forum “to shape ideas that are more free and bold than what can be created within a political party.” He said Agenda will be “both national and international,” extending activities and social democratic thinking far beyond the Oslo area and into the entire country.
“We will also build a network with other think tanks and political circles with a left-center value system out in the world,” Lippestad said.
The new Agenda, which has received funding from such diverse sources as businessman and philanthropist Trond Mohn and the national labour confederation LO, is also meant to be an alternative to the popular and respected conservative-leaning think tank Civita, headed by a former top politician and government minister for Norway’s Conservative Party, Kristin Clemet. Its breakfast meetings are often packed and the group has emerged as a powerful force in forming ideas to tackle challenges facing Norwegian society.
Norway’s Labour Party is firmly behind Agenda and Lippestad, a member of Labour himself who’s been active in party matters in his Oslo neighbourhood of Nordstrand, spoke at Labour’s national meeting last spring. He seems to adhere to the more left-leaning side of Labour, as an advocate for the downtrodden. He noted that he’s also a member of the board of the employers’ organization Virke and a church foundation in support of families. “And yes, I’m a member of the Labour Party,” he told Dagsavisen.
There are several top Labour and Center Party politicians who are looking for new jobs after Labour lost government power in the last election, and they’re viewed as candidates for the job to lead Agenda. Former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide from the Labour Party was a top candidate, but he ended up accepting a top job with the World Economic Forum in Geneva.
There’s been some debate within the small, district-oriented Center Party about how closely it should be tied to Agenda. The former head of the Center Party’s youth group argued strongly that the party should not get involved with Agenda, while others support maintenance of a strong role by the state, something Agenda is likely to back as well.