Labour’s day on the First of May

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Politicians from the Norwegian Labour Party planned to be out in force on Friday, the 1st of May, working hard on the national Labour Day holiday to try to win back power at both the local and national levels. Marches and rallies were being held all over the country, led by labour unions and Labour officials alike.

Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party was set to be a busy man on Friday, speaking at Labour Day events all day long. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet/Johannes Dalen Giske

Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party was set to be a busy man on Friday, speaking at Labour Day events all day long. He running in the fall elections to head Oslo’s city government. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet/Johannes Dalen Giske

The country’s largest trade union federation LO advertised all week in local papers for its annual rally and parade in Oslo. It’s traditionally led by the LO boss, now Gerd Kristiansen, and features a long list of other labour luminaries and social democratic celebrities, many of whom speak or perform at the downtown square called Youngstorget, starting from 11am.

The Labour Party itself has a tradition of using the May 1st holiday to its own advantage, and this year it’s kicking off the campaign for municipal elections this fall. Among its busiest politicians is Raymond Johansen, the party’s former national secretary who now wants to head Oslo’s city government.

Johansen started the Labour Day festivities on Thursday night with a community sing-along at a public hall in Grorud, the working class area northeast of Oslo where he lives. He was set to be back in action early Friday morning, at a May Day breakfast at Bøler Church, also on the city’s Labour-oriented east side. At noon, he’d be speaking at the city’s main rally at Youngstorget, just before the parade starts, and then again at Kulturhuset after the parade.

May Day celebrations in Norway feature rallies, parades and lots of political posturing. Here from last year's parade in Oslo. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

May Day celebrations in Norway feature rallies, parades and lots of political posturing. Here from last year’s parade in Oslo. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“I hope there will be a good turnout,” Johansen told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He candidly admitted that he thinks the Labour Day celebrations can help mobilize voters well in advance of the fall elections.

“We have to compete with the fact that May 1st falls on a Friday this year, and we have to compete with the weather, but I hope at least as many people turn out as last year,” Johansen said.

Norway’s first May 1st parade took place in 1890, when workers demanded an eight-hour workday. Johansen thinks it’s still important to have a day “to talk about international solidarity, and think about the country where we live and what challenges we face. I traveled around the country a lot as party secretary, and have seen how many people turn out to mark their political views and what should be done for the country. The day has been, and is, very central and important.”

Labour’s new leader, Jonas Gahr Støre, would also be making public appearances and appeals on May 1st. He was due to speak in Bergen, both at the Askøy High School at midday and at the central city square Torgallmenningen later in the afternoon. His two deputy leaders, Hadia Tajik and Trond Giske, were busy as well, with Tajik starting her day at the Bredtveit Prison for women in Oslo and then moving on to Kulåsparken in Sarpsborg and Stortorvet in Fredrikstad. Giske planned to attend an 8am breakfast at Folkets hus (The People’s House) in Sandvika before moving on to events in Lørenskog, Eidsvoll and Jessheim.

From our archives: Video from May Day parade in Oslo 2010

Other high-profile Labour politicians were fanning out all over Oslo and nationwide, as were a long list of officials from other political parties and organizations, from Amnesty to the anti-EU group Nei til EU and the environmental lobby Framtiden i våre hender (The future in our hands). The music was starting at Youngstorget at 11:15am.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund