Morning radio listeners got an earfull on Thursday, when the ever-provocative deputy leader of Norway’s conservative Progress Party, Sylvi Listhaug, accused the Greens Party of furthering socialism and “nanny state” policies aimed at “tearing down” much of what Norway has built up for generations. “Utter nonsense,” retorted her counterpart from the Greens, Arild Hermstad, during an unusually noisy and hostile debate on state broadcaster NRK’s popular political talk show, Politisk kvarter.
The debate itself was sparked before NRK’s morning broadcast, when Listhaug’s boss, Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, initially lashed out at the strict climate and environmental policies of Norway’s left-leaning political parties.
“The latest thing now is that we should feel shame,” Jensen said during a party leader speech in Oslo. “We should be ashamed to use a car. We should be ashamed to eat meat. We should be ashamed to fly when on holiday. We should be ashamed of our oil industry. We should be ashamed on a daily basis. This is socialism in new clothes, a collective effort meant to steer our choices.”
Listhaug, known for fiery rhetoric that forced her resignation as justice minister last year, followed up on Jensen’s comments Thursday morning during NRK’s live radio debate from Arendal, where top politicians and other leaders have been meeting this week and also having noisy debates. Hermstad was there in person, while Listhaug took part over a phone line.
“The problem is the nanny state politics that the Greens are promoting,” Listhaug said. “These are policies meant to force on us others the choices they have made themselves, by making us feel ashamed. But if there’s one thing those of us in Norway should not do, it’s to be ashamed of how fantastic we have it here. That’s been built up over generations. The Greens want to tear it all down.”
As Listhaug continue to speak and all but ignore the debate’s moderator, Hermstad could only shake his head. “This is pure nonsense from Siv Jensen and Sylvi Listhaug,” Hermstad said, adding that their attempt to tie the climate challenge to any effort to impose socialism is “ridiculous.”
“That’s such a desperate and incomprehensibly contemptible way of thinking that it’s unbelievable,” said Hermstad, the Greens’ national spokesperson. He said it’s as if the Progress Party’s leadership wants to spread a conspiracy theory that the UN’s Paris Agreement on ways of tackling climate change, signed by the world’s leaders in 2015, was in reality orchestrated by Marxists to impose socialism.
He also strongly objected to what he considered Listhaug’s attempt to attach opinions to both him and the party that neither have.
Progress diving in the polls
Listhaug’s radio assault came just a day after release of a new public opinion poll that shows the Progress Party, which long has ranked as Norway’s third-largest, with less voter support than the Greens, which has ranked as among Norway’s smallest parties. The poll showed that only 6.8 percent of voters will cast ballots for Progress at the upcoming local elections in September. That compares to 7 percent percent for the Greens, who have claimed as much as 15 percent of the vote in Oslo alone.
Listhaug ignored Hermstad’s claims that Progress was resorting to “desperate” tactics, but claimed it was “clear that we have stepped on a sore toe that they don’t want to talk about. The politics they stand for is in practice socialism.” She noted how they’ve backed property tax in Oslo (as has her own party in other communities), “let toll plazas pop up all over the city and they have spent money on lots of nonsense at the same time they’ve shut down hundreds of nursing home spots. That’s nothing other than socialism.”
Municipal and county elections, the only elections in which foreign residents can also cast a ballot, will be held in Norway on September 9.