It was a bit unusual speech. First Maria Wetterstrand spoke for about 15 minutes, and then Peter Eriksson (the other party spokesperson) took over and held his speech for 15-20 minutes. They usually hold every second speech but I guess that they did this because it was their last performance in Almedalen as party spokespersons. They must leave their posts in May 2011 due to internal party rules which limit the period for party spokespersons.
Their speech was a mix of traditional green rhetoric, football comparisons and critique against the centre-right government.
"We dare to be the visionaries in the future Sweden"
Maria Wetterstrand started with something that probably all Swedes have warm memories from: Football World Cup 1994 when Sweden won the bronze medal. Sweden won over Romania in the quarter final.
Wetterstrand spoke about how the Swedish team got a free-kick in the quarter final's 80th minute and that the team scored after trying a risky pass-run-shoot variant. Afterwards the Swedish coach said that it was freedom he had given the team that made this creativity possible. In a decisive moment the players dared to do the unexpected. It was according to Wetterstrand, new thinking that brought Sweden to the semi-final.
- Who dares to be creative in the future Sweden? Who put up the goals? Who wants to be a visionaire, asked Wetterstrand rhetorically.
Climate, small-businesses and families
Maria Wetterstrand then spoke about her favourite subject: The climate. She continued the football allegories and said that if a football team has only a couple of really good players it can mean a lot.
- We want to be that kind of key players, she said referring to the high priority of the climate issues for the Green party.
Then Wetterstrand made a smart rhetorical move concerning the Greens' proposal to increase the tax on petrol. She started to mention a number of countries like Holland, Greece, Germany, UK Portugal etc. Then she asked:
- What is this? Is it the qualification group to the next European Cup? No, these are the countries in Europe which have higher petrol tax than Sweden. After the planned red-green tax increase after the 2010 elections. Holland has the highest tax. In my view Holland is doing quite well economically.
The smart thing here is that Wetterstrand 1) located Sweden somewhere in the "normal European country" after their planned tax increase on petrol, and 2) argued against the centre-right argument that it would hit the economy.
What she did not mention is that Sweden is very dependent on its trucks in the forestry industry. This may become a problem in the short run in the Green's restructuration "from roads to railroads".
Finally Wetterstrand spoke very shortly about the importance of keeping bureaucracy as simple as possible for smaller businesses. But only after a couple of sentences she spoke of how difficult it can be to deal with public authorities for families with small children. This was not very smart if the Greens want to be serious with their pro-small business profile.
Wetterstrand continued to speak about "non-traditional families". Two people who want to do artificial insemination must lie to the hospitals and say that they are a couple. A single woman must go abroad to do the insemination.
- In a modern Sweden anyone can form a family in the the way they want to. Wetterstrand finished.
Then Peter Eriksson took over the podium. He started to speak in positive terms of the life in Sweden and in Gotland and the importance of preserving these things.
Peter Eriksson at the podium. Photo: Tommie Ullman/Stockholm News
- Therefore, nothing can be more important than that we together see to that the beuty can live on, that the diversity of life can continue and that we humans do not destroy the preconditions for those who come after us, Eriksson said.
Eriksson continued saying that the centre-right parties way of toning down politics to give more power to private persons is not the right way to go. On the contrary politics is important, and it is more important than ever it seems according to Eriksson:
- We who love the life and know that there is still hope and great potential in democracy and politics. We who have not lapsed into cynism or simple apathy know that there is still a possibility to make a difference. Politics have never been more important than now, Eriksson claimed.
Railways, green cities and equality
After delivering this very positive and optimistic view on politics, Eriksson mentioned that they have big plans if they win in September. They will invest in railroad and increase the railway capacity in Sweden with 100 percent. He also mentioned the Green Party's vision in modernising the cities in Sweden both when it comes to equality and green thinking.
Like in the last year's Almedalen speech Eriksson put much energy in the issue of equality in Sweden. He claims that he has met many people during these four years that say that what is good in Sweden is now gradually disappearing.
- We will build an equal, gender equal and sustainable country. We will paint Sweden with belief in the future. A country that sticks together is unbeatable, Eriksson said clearly referring to the red-green broad idea of equality and solidarity.
Critique of government: missed chances
Finally Eriksson criticised the government for "missed goal opportunities" continuing Wetterstrand's football allegories.
He claimed that Reinfeldt government had the opportunity to do a lot of things once in power like:
Passivity during the failed climate conference in Copenhagen
Use the financial crisis to do important green investments
Prioritise the railways in Sweden more
restructure the acriculture sector
Eriksson drew the following conclusion:
- They did not have the energy to restructure. It was the same thing with the jobs. And now they want four more years. Why?
Rhetorical masterpiece except for...
For me as a bystander, the speeches of Wetterstrand and Eriksson was close to rhetorical masterpieces. In what way?
Firstly they paint a simple and optimistic vision of the future. They describe their own dreams first and foremost and then they criticise the government. Anyone who followed Obama in the US presidential campaign know that this is the unbeatable strategy to build credibility.
Secondly they use the tactic of repetition quite effective. They came back to the main message of modernising Sweden in the key lines of their speeches.
Thirdly they use very carefully chosen words to both satisfy their loyal supporters and to tempt those who hesitate. The football allegories were perhaps a bit far-fetched but compared to Hägglund's speech they used them for a point and not only for clever humour. Words like equal, modern and green were used in a way so we as audience should clearly get the message that they are connected.
The only mistake from Wetterstrand and Eriksson in my view both rhetorically and subtantially was their almost rude way of mentioning small businesses in only a couple of sentences. They cannot have calculated with tempting small business owners over to their side with this speech. That was a misstake. Business owners are probably even more assured that the centre-right alliance is their block.