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Political gossip from Sweden

by someone Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 08:08:30 AM EST

From yesterday's Open Thread, Starvid:

Breaking news:

During his entire career as PM, Swedish former PM Göran Persson (1996-2007) was regularly interviewed by the journalist Eric Fichtelius, who has made it all into a 4 hour documentary. Persson is extremely frank as the show was promised to be aired only after his retirement as PM.

The first part of four was aired tonight and I just watched it. The funniest thing from a European presepective is what he says about the day when the EMU treaty was signed.

It's funny, this is true. I watched it and ended up doing a transcription/translation into English of some parts for a few of my friends. Here it is for you. I have to get back to work, so no commentary from me at this point. Enjoy!

Link to the video(in Swedish)


Göran Person:
It was a great day. It was May the second 1998.
The German Mark will become the Euro. The leaders of the EU meet for their historical decision about the monetary union. But nothing is done until everything is done!
Göran Person:
We gathered, as one always does, before lunch. We were standing around talking, I think we were supposed to start at 1pm, with lunch, but it was getting late for that. It was under the British presidency, Blair was not seen, Kohl was not seen, Chirac and Jospin were not seen, Wim Kok was not seen. So one understood that something was going on, something was happening. Around 2pm, there is some noise, banging with doors, and then Kohl enters the room. And the good Kohl is completely, incredibly, upset. He is torn up. He is gesticulating, and he is black around the eyes. And when he enters the room, he yells: "Here you see the monkey in Europe! I don't want to be the monkey in Europe! The one that everyone laughs at!" It was the crisis around appointing this Duisenberg, as the new president of the Central European Bank, the French were blocking, but the Germans thought it would be worked out. And it was the Germans who would be in trouble if it didn't, because it was the Germans who had an election coming, and this is Kohl's project, it can't fail. So, Kohl is very upset when he enters. He sits down. And then he starts to, like,... eat... butter. And he eats copious quantities of butter. At first one saucer, and I think it was about 10 of those packaged butter pieces, 10g apiece which lie there, consumed quickly. And then he brings in another saucer, and also those are eaten. And then he starts to calm down. And we are still waiting for Blair, Jospin and Chirac, and Wim Kok. And then they too arrive. And some kind of deal has been made, the kind of deal in which Kohl has gone too far. He has agreed to a deal between France and the Netherlands which Germany cannot accept. "What will he think of me now? The man on the street, who trusted me, what will he think, and it's over now, I will never manage, that it should end like this". Kohl is not so dumb, as a political animal, that he didn't get that his election is now blown. And he is sitting and telling us this, and his interpreter, I remember, the woman who was always with him, she was sobbing while translating. And then we moved down for forms sake, sometime in the night, to take this decision, to start the EMU. And everything dissolved into total chaos, and a bad mood, and an enormous crisis, if anything else is really the beginning of the EMU.
They were born the same year, both received an early political education, the one an aristocrat, the other from a home almost entirely without books. Carl Bildt, a ghost for Göran Persson, is gone from Swedish politic while brokering peace in the former Yugoslavia. It gives him international star power at home, and status as an icon in his own party. A difficult opponent for Göran Persson in the 1998 elections.

Cut to October 1997, speech in the parliament

Carl Bildt:
It was quite a while ago that I had the opportunity to speak from this podium. Other missions have, as well known, for a couple of years removed me from Sweden, and to the problems of Europe, which have been, and still are, of a different order, than what we face in our discussions in this chamber. But is was always clear to me...

Cut to interview

Göran Person:
I noticed that he was uncertain, going up to the podium. And this is not unimportant as a signal, to me. That one notices quickly when one has socialised. It becomes a bit loose, and a bit unnecessarily stressed voice, and things like that.
So that pleases your black heart [dark side] then?
Göran Persson:
Naeyah, but I know how much it matters, for the bit of politics that this represents, to have the initiative.

Cut to a TV debate before the 1998 elections

Carl Bildt:
I just want to say to you, Göran, I think I have worked more than you with people in difficult situations, that I have . (Göran is seen shaking his head)
Carl Bildt:
I don't think you really know the depth of despair that can afflict. And when I have worked with people like that, also in other countries, It is all about giving a job, to give dignity, to give opportunities to develop.
Göran Person:
Please tell me, Carl Bildt, about the fine, wide world. Please tell me about large investments in IT, and new airplanes. But don't tell me about social class in Sweden. I have seen it, I have grown up in it, and I hate it. My entire political legacy will be to fight class inequality, where single mothers end up paying for lower taxes of those better off, that I can tell you.
October 1998, after the election where the Social Democrats lost support.

Narrator :
Even a looser can continue to govern. Now the greens and the Left party join a coalition [with Göran Person's Social Democrats], like the Centre Party in the past. The Moderats and Carl Bildt take several weeks to engage in a counter offencive, and they are too late. The majority for Persson in the parliament is secured.

Cut to The Swedish parliament, October 1998

Birgitta Dahl, speaker of the parliament:
The meeting of the parliament is opened. A vote of no confidence on the prime minister, Göran Person.
Carl Bildt:
The election, on September 20, was a larger setback for the governing party than what any other governing party in the modern history of Sweden has ever experienced.
Birgitta Dahl:
The vote has been taken, with 82 yes, 186 no, and 74 abstentions. [Applause]

Cut to interview

Göran Person:
Another thing is, that I have benefited from Bildt being so fucking bad. And obviously I wonder where that guy is going to go, I wonder what he is going to do. A bit sad. I feel sorry for him, I think there is a feeling of sorrow, when one meets him. One can think about ones own case, we are the same age, and he sees in front of himself a situation where he doesn't return as prime minister, he sees that in front of himself. At the same time, life goes on, this wasn't what he had expected, to sit there and quarrel with Bo Lundgren [who will soon thereafter take over as party leader for the Moderats] and [Gunnar] Hökmark[party secretary of the Moderats, 1991-2000], and the gang. That's difficult for him.

This Perrson fella sounds like an interesting guy...I appreciate his candor!!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 10:54:50 AM EST
He appears completely open with Fichtelius, whom he apparently trusted immensely. Fichtelius was by the way scandalised in 2002 (?) when it was revealed that this documentary was in the making and Fichtelius was head of the election coverage team at svt (public service tv). He was kicked sideways to some other job withtin the same house.

Anyway, through this documentary Persson gets a last minute in the spotlight before disappearing from the public stage. My impression is that the documentary confirms my impression of someone extremely self-centered. One episode to illustrate: Persson has put his minister of finance up as the fall-guy for some unpopular decision and then when it turned up to be really impopular withdrawn the proposition by blaming the minister of finance. That is all old news that was covered at the time. What is new is that Persson view his minister's resignation as an attack on himself.

I see "people resign to hurt me" as a bit self-centered, though not as baad as "people kill themselves to hurt us" which was heard from some american official after a suicide-attempt at Guantanamo.

And it sure is interesting to get this inside perspective. Generally I must say the whole political world is worse then I imagined it (and I thought I was cynical).

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by A swedish kind of death on Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 05:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
someone, thanks for doing this. It is interesting.

I don't take the political world as "worse." Instead, I think that we have to realize that politics is the dimension of our social lives in which people get together to cooperate. They cooperate (we hope) to change things for the better. Sometimes that means that some dumb things have to happen as well...why? because there are always going to be some dumb or selfish people sitting at the bargaining table. Locke's optimism that all people were reasonable and able to see their long term self-interests is a little overly optimistic. Sometimes you have to sit down and work out a problem with a real jerk.

But if at least some of the problem is resolved, we're in a better situation than we were before.

And maybe that is all we can be content with...

by gradinski chai on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 02:09:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing struck me while watching this, but I have been out of daily exposure to the Swedish language for a while now, so I don't know if it is in fact strange...

In Swedish one can quite easily do away with most pronouns in a sentence, replacing the subject with the impersonal pronoun 'one', which is quite commonly in use. The object can often just be dropped or replaced in one way or another, so we end up with something where the 'I' is quite simply gone and displaced to people in general, and the object is just assumed. This can be done, it is done, but one does have other options, it is not the only way to speak. It seems to me that Persson does this a lot. More than 'normal'. I was trying to render it in English with somewhat idiosyncratic translations. Like this one, where we start with 'he' and 'I', and then quickly proceeds to depersonalised statements:

Göran Person: I noticed that he was uncertain, going up to the podium. And this is not unimportant as a signal, to me. That one notices quickly when one has socialised. It becomes a bit loose, and a bit unnecessarily stressed voice, and things like that.

Is this in any way strange, or is this actually how people speak? Is this how politicians speak? Is this an intentional effect to make us feel more like Persson is allowing us in on some dirty secrets? Does he end up doing this because he is gossiping about his colleagues and would like to distance himself (and them!) a bit from it?

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 03:15:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thinks one doesn't use "one" all to often, but one discovers one does so frequently.
I don't think I use "one" all that much when I speak, other than "det skulle man kunna tro" ("one would think that'd be the case"). When I wrote my Master's thesis last year I employed it somewhat frequently, for example "man kan konstatera..." ("one can conclude...").

To me it just sounds like Persson being Persson, though.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 05:09:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is mostly a reflection of Persson being reflective. "He" and "I" is straight from the story-line, while he uses "one" when he narrates the story-line to explain it for the journalist.

I think that is quite a common way to use "one", though it is uncommon to go back in forth between story and reflection, especially in politics. It might also be indicative of Perssons background. In some dialects one uses one quite a bit.

I had a swedish teacher who considered it sloppy to use one and tried to get us to stop using it. This would indicate that it is quite common, but not considered proper swedish, which could be why it is not normally frequent on television.

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 06:39:20 AM EST
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