Robert Eriksson wasn’t at all happy about being replaced as Norway’s Minister of Labour last winter. Now he’s written a book about his short ministerial career and some rumours of romance swirling around it. His book also offers some unsolicited advice to former government colleagues and not least his former boss, Siv Jensen.
The book, which grabbed media headlines last week, may just seal the end of Eriksson’s political career, but he seems to hope it won’t. He insists he’s not bitter, either about losing his ministerial post or failing to secure a top job within his Progress Party. He still wants to serve, if the party will have him.
That’s highly unclear, and the lack of any job offers so far may be sending him a hint. That hasn’t kept him from suggesting that his former boss, Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, should give up her government post as Finance Minister and concentrate on the party during the run-up to next year’s parliamentary election.
Suggests ‘Siv’ should swap jobs
“Being a finance minister is an incredibly demanding job,” Eriksson writes in his book. “When I travel around the country and visit the grassroots (of the party), the impression I get is that Siv lets herself be steered too much by the bureaucracy. That’s the signal I get from steadily more people.”
If Jensen insists on retaining a ministerial post, Eriksson thinks she should swap jobs with Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen. Eriksson thinks Solvik-Olsen would be an excellent finance minister.
“I think both Siv and the Progress Party would benefit from her switching ministries,” Eriksson claimed. He seized the opportunity, though, to praise the job she has done as party leader.
“The Progress Party has an excellent leader in Siv Jensen, it’s a role she should fill for many more years,” Eriksson wrote. “Siv has become a solid and good brand for the party. Unfortunately the “Party Leader Siv” has become more and more distant during the time she’s been sitting in the finance ministry.” He thinks it’s important for the party to dare to discuss Jensen’s role.
His own seems to be hanging by a thread. After what he calls “27 years of faithful service,” he admits to being “incredibly disappointed” when Jensen and Prime Minister Erna Solberg replaced him as Labour Minister with Anniken Hauglie from Solberg’s Conservatives. It was more important for the Progress Party to get and fill the new ministerial post of Immigration Minister (with rising star Sylvi Listhaug) and place deputy party leader Per Sandberg in the rose as Fisheries Minister. That meant there was no room for Eriksson, too, and he had to step down in December.
Eriksson, who’s now working for a local PR firm, thought he’d get a top job in the party itself, but that didn’t happen either. He wonders now if it’s because rumours were swirling that he’d been having an affair with a political adviser who was 13 years younger than him. He denied it, to both Solberg and Jensen, claiming he had no romantic relationship with his aid Ulrikke Holmøy at the time. Today he confirms they’re a couple but that he didn’t and “couldn’t lie about a relationship that didn’t exist.”
The book itself seems full of contradictions, with Eriksson switching from being “incredibly disappointed” to being “grateful” for “unforgettable moments” as a top government officials. While insisting he’s not bitter, he oftens sounds like he is, claiming he “had expected something else” after his years of service. While claiming to be proud of the job he did as labour minister, he complains of being up against an entrenched bureaucracy at the ministry that stymied his work. He describes himself as “a boy from (the Trønderlag village of) Verdal who’s simply saying what he believes,” whether his party colleagues want to listen or not.