Far-right political parties are making huge gains across Nordic countries – as new champions of a working class alienated by the cosmopolitan left.
For months the eyes of Europeans have been trained on the travails of Greece. But in these turbulent times a seismic upheaval is also taking place in the normally sedate world of Scandinavian politics. And it is one that in its own way is as significant as the emergence of Syriza or the growing respectability of Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France. In Sweden Denmark Norway and Finland the populist right is on the march – and it is wearing the traditional battle armour of the Nordic left.
During the 1930s the idea of the Folkhemmet or people’s home was popularised by the Swedish Social Democratic prime minister Per Albin Hansson.It became the cornerstone of the world’s first and most advanced welfare states in which no citizen should be left behind. Described by the Swedish author and journalist Göran Rosenberg as a place ‘where the state assumed the role of a benevolent paterfamilias, trusted with universal welfare’ the concept of ‘the people’s home’ was the ideological property of the social democrats.
Times have changed. In an era of globalisation – open borders and hugely reduced public spending, that ownership has expired. Others are now laying claim to the title deeds of the Folkhemmet while promising to pull down the shutters and lock the rest of the world out.
The SD’s extraordinary surge in support echoes the rise of the Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s party) which shocked Denmark by coming second in June’s general election after promising bigger increases in public spending than its rivals – and a restoration of border controls.
In Norway, the right-wing populists of the Progress party have been a junior partner in government with the Conservatives since 2013.
The Finns party, which shares the growing taste for ‘welfare nationalism’ forms part of the administration in Helsinki.