While Norway’s new prime minister, Erna Solberg, was busy chatting with her British counterpart David Cameron in London last week, and attending to other matters of state, her husband Sindre Finnes was busy in the kitchen, and not just their own. Finnes has quickly established himself as Norway’s “first man,” and claims to be enjoying it.
Finnes, who also has had a top position at Norway’s employers’ organization NHO, has long taken on the main homemaker role for the Finnes-Solberg family as well. “I’ve normally had dinner ready for the kids (the couple has a son and a daughter) at set times every day,” Finnes told newspaper Dagsavisen. “We generally have fish a few times a week, and some pasta. We try to take advantage of special offers that can be found in the stores.
“If Erna is home for dinner, that’s an extra bonus,” Finnes said. Like most top politicians, though, she can’t always join her family around the table.
Last week, while she was in London paying her first official call on Cameron as Norway’s prime minister, her husband accepted an invitation to also cook at a special Norwegian support center for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. His assignment was to prepare beef, under the close supervision of the center’s own cook. Finnes said he enjoys cooking and taking on some of jobs that often are assigned to the spouses of a prime minister.
“I have probably chosen a different profile than my predecessor,” Finnes said, referring to the wife of former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Ingrid Schulerud. While Schulerud often accompanied Stoltenberg on overseas trips and events like state dinners, she is a career diplomat who made it clear she would not be taking on the traditional role of “first lady.” Finnes seems to think the “first man” role is rather fun, and important.
“I think it’s great to take on various assignments like this one,” Finnes said as he prepared steaks adorned in an apron that promoted “Quality and Diversity.” He said the office of the prime minister gets lots of requests for special appearances, and that most have to be turned down. When he can take some of them on, though, he will.
In the case of the kitchen work at the HIV/AIDS center, the government had suddenly received a carton of prime grade beef from Swaziland as a thank-you for being granted increased exports to Norway. “But there are rules as to what the prime minister or individual government officials can accept,” Finnes said. “It worked well to be able to pass the meat on to the center so people here could enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, in London, Solberg promised Cameron her government’s cooperation on energy and climate issues, offered advice on how to restrict export of welfare benefits and spoke warmly of the “special relationship” between Norway and Great Britain. Solberg is clearly more positive towards the EU than Cameron seems to be at present, even though Norway is not a member of the EU. It was unclear whether Solberg made it home in time for dinner.