Lubna Jaffery joined the Norwegian Labour Party and became active in its youth organization AUF in 1995, when she was only 15. On Wednesday, after 28 years of representing Labour in Bergen, the government and Parliament, Jaffery was tapped by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to become his government’s new Minister of Culture and Equality.
Jaffery, age 43, will be taking over after Anette Trettebergstuen, another relatively young and popular Labour Party veteran, but who ran into trouble for appointing close friends to official positions. Trettebergstuen had to resign last week over the conflicts of interest, forcing Støre to quickly find a replacement for her right at the beginning of Pride Week, numerous cultural events and more drama around Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The prime minister insisted Jaffery was “an exciting and actually quite simple choice.” Her name popped up early in the speculation over Trettebergstuen’s successor, just as Jaffery was herself on her way to Denmark to attend the annual Roskilde festival.
Lengthy political experience
In addition to her interest in music and festivals, Støre stressed Jaffery’s political experience that began with her election to the Bergen City Council in 1999 and, in 2003, to the Fjell municipal council. In 2007, when that council term was up, she was summoned to Oslo to become a political adviser in the government then led by Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg, now secretary general of NATO. Jaffery worked first in the ministry in charge of labour and inclusion and then in the health ministry, before being named as a state secretary in the Ministry of Culture headed at the time by Labour’s Anniken Huitfeldt, now Norway’s foreign minister.
Jaffery returned to Bergen in 2012, just before Stoltenberg lost his bid for a third term as prime minister in 2013. Jaffery was elected to the Bergen City Council once again and served as the Bergen city government’s leader in charge of labour and social welfare issues, until she was called back to Oslo to take over a seat in Parliament vacated by another Labour fellow from Bergen who’d been named as a government minister: Marte Mjøs Persen.
Now that seat will need to be filled by another aspiring Labour politician, when Jaffery takes on ministerial duties herself. Prime Minister Støre cited her lengthy experience in both city and state government: “She knows how the government apparatus works (also in the culture ministry itself),” Støre stated on Wednesday. He noted how Jaffery also “understands the culture- and equality sectors well,” calling her a “knowledgable, wise and enthusiastic politician, and a good person, which we need in politics.”
Støre took time to thank Trettebergstuen for her work as culture minister since he formed his first government in 2021. He repeatedly referred to Trettebergstuen, also a leader in the gay community, as “hard-working” with keen insight into both cultural and equality issues. He said she had “worked systematically” to improve the rights of those who are not heterosexual and their opportunities to live a free life.
“Right in the middle of Pride events here in Oslo, many will acknowledge the contributions she made,” Støre said.
He thinks Jaffery’s background as the child of labour migrants from Pakistan will contribute to what he called “the battle for equality, fairness, anti-racism and to be able to love who you want.” Her first official responsibility will be to join Støre in hosting an annual reception at the prime minister’s residence for individual and organizations taking part in Pride events this week.