Monday, March 19, 2007

Welcome, Mona, very much welcome

One thing was bad with this weekend’s congress: the wireless network did not work in the congress hall, where I spent most of the time. And this was a historic congress, so I wanted to be in the congress hall, listening and watching and writing articles [hey, I was working the whole weekend]. Finally, some reflections:

1. This party did recently obtain its worst election result since 1914, but the ambiance was extremely positive during the whole weekend. You could see in peoples’ faces that they were happy about the election of Mona Sahlin. The reason was that a fresh but familiar wind swept through Folkets Hus in Stockholm, the building once designed by Sven Markelius. People breathed, and smiles followed.

2. The wind was fresh because the world’s most successful labor party – traditionally male, stubborn and hierarchic – has elected a woman for the first time. As readers of this blog know, I really like Mona and I had high expectations this weekend. But she did not only meet expectations, she really took command, exceeded high hopes, and the fresh wind came.

3. The reason why Mona did so well and spread happy smiles this weekend can be boiled down to two reasons; content and attitude. When it comes to the content of her first major speech as party leader, I must admit I was thrilled. In the beginning of her speech Mona asked the important question: what is social democracy really about? She answered the question in the best possible way: freedom. We are a movement stemming from the quest for freedom and liberation, a struggle that also demands equality, solidarity, and individual responsibility.

The political priorities that Mona focused on were timeless and modern: sustainable development, jobs, peace, and welfare. She was brave and did the right thing when emphasizing that the right to have a job (opportunity) also means that you should contribute as much as you can (responsibility). She also mentioned the word entrepreneur nine times, and that must be some kind of record in a social democratic speech.

Mona Sahlin underlined the important role of trade unions and collective bargaining in our political framework, and she put a lot of emphasis on the EU, globalization and international issues. She did this by putting the tradition of Olof Palme and Anna Lindh in the middle of a speech by a social democratic party leader, and boy that felt great. As I said, the wind was fresh but also familiar.

The second reason
why her speech was great has to do with attitude. She spoke about the problems of young people in a way that moved the whole congress hall, and all of sudden the Swedish Social Democratic party was standing in the middle of our contemporary society again. The new attitude was also manifested when she said that ”the team is more important than the leader”, and revealed that a new international group will be lead by two of the party’s brightest stars; Jan Eliasson and Margot Wallström. And the attitude was never more present than during the party Saturday night, when we all danced together around midnight, the team and the leader and everyone else.

After the speech, a fellow blogger summed it all up in a good way: ”This was the party I joined”. Freedom, equality, human rights, sustainable development, gender equality, Africa, entrepreneurialism, LGTB-issues, and a modern Swedish model built on market economy, strong trade unions, and generous welfare.

I smiled as well, and I smile while writing this. Welcome Mona, very much welcome.



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