Sweden’s tradition of giving gifts to send off departing party leaders

A spa day for two, a science experiment kit, a promise of home-made pizza, a book on nationalism, and another on Stockholm walks. Sweden's party leaders on Wednesday engaged in the age-old tradition of seeing off departing colleagues with gifts.

Sweden's tradition of giving gifts to send off departing party leaders
Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson says farewell to Centre Party leader Annie Lööf by gifting her a child's experiment kit. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

After 11 years in the job, Centre Party leader Annie Lööf was given a moving farewell at her last party leader debate in the Riksdag, with kind words coming from colleagues you might have assumed were personal as well as political adversaries.

“Person in power to person in power, elected leader to elected leader, woman to woman, but perhaps most of all mother to mother, I hope from the very centre of my heart that when all the dust has settled that it was worth it, that we together made the road a little wider for our daughters,” Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch said, close to tears. 

Her party gave Lööf a donation to the charity Min Stora Dag, while she, herself, promised a dinner together where the two could “eat well and drink well”. 

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Lööf’s response was surprisingly warm, a reminder perhaps of the two years when the two were on the same side of bloc politics, thanking Busch for her friendship. 

“I am extremely thankful for the friendship, Ebba, for the fact that we were both able to talk together about the demands of politics, about sleepless nights, about periods of vabbing as the parents of small children,” she said.  

Busch, she said, was someone who always came up with “that little bit extra”, a new mobile phone case, sticky buns for fika, adding that she had even arranged a baby shower for her, with a cake made of nappies. 

According to Carina Larsson, the head of press at The Riksdag Administration, the tradition of giving departing leaders presents goes back some time. 

“It has been a tradition for at least the last ten years to have a farewell ceremony when a party leader goes,” she told The Local. 

Outgoing Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, for instance, was gifted a spicy chilli sausage by Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, which came from a small town in Blekinge, Åkesson’s home county. 

The ceremony is little different to those held at any other workplace when an employee moves on, with small, witty gifts, and short, heartfelt speeches.

On one hand, it’s quite striking the extent to which politicians you are used to seeing at loggerheads either have, or at least pretend to have, friendly private relationships. 

The difference of course is that politics never stops, so the gifts chosen are all designed to make a certain point or give a certain impression. 

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar, whose party Lööf refused to negotiate with, gave her a spa day in Nacka. One the face of it, it’s a suitable present for two women, but Dadgostar’s speech had a slight sting in its tail. 

“I want to give you a spa day in Nacka, for two, and you don’t need to take me with you. I hope you manage to get a bit of a rest,” she said. 

“I think you decide that you and I should go,” Lööf smiled back. “I look forward to having a spa with you.”

The present that came from Jimmie Åkesson, Lööf’s longstanding opponent, was a book, Nationalstaten, or The Nation State, by Björn Östbring, sent a fairly clumsy message.

The Sweden Democrat gift to Annie Lööf was the book Nationalstaten by Björn Östbring. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The book argues that the culture war between liberals and nationalists can be overcome by looking back to the long-forgotten ideology of Liberal Nationalism. 

Lööf thanked Åkesson for the “conversations and laughter we have had”. 

“He can formulate a pretty punchy SMS, and I haven’t always been angry with him,” she joked.  

The point where Lööf came closest to a cutting comment, though, was when Johan Pehrson, the Liberal Party leader who agreed to the rather illiberal Tidö Agreement, offered her home-made pizza, and pointed out that while he had been party leader for eleven months, she had managed eleven years. 

“My God it’s tough, all the demands and expectations, everything you need to give up,” he said. 

“My advice,” Lööf responded, “is to be yourself”.

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson gave Lööf a children’s experiment kit from Alga “as a symbol of faith in progress”. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Magdalena Andersson, the leader of the Social Democrats, offered her a book called Barnfamiljernas friluftsguide, a guide to outdoor life around Stockholm for families, and also promised to show her own “favourite place for a barbecue, so long as you don’t tell anyone”. 

Annie Lööf and Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

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Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The far-right Sweden Democrats are threatening to push Sweden's three-party ruling coalition into a political crisis as they fail to reach agreement over how drastically to cut the country's biofuels obligation, a key part in its plan to reduce emissions.

Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The party is claiming that a pledge in the Tidö Agreement calling for the biofuels obligation, or reduktionsplikt, to be cut to the “lowest EU level”, should mean that the amount of biofuels that must be blended into petrol and diesel and Sweden should be cut to close to zero, rather than to about half the current share, as suggested by ongoing EU negotiations. 

“We are being tough in the negotiations because of the power we have as the biggest party in this bloc,” Oscar Sjöstedt, the party’s finance spokesperson told TV4. “There is going to be a change at the end of the year that is going to be pretty significant and substantial, that I’m 99.9 percent certain about, otherwise we will have a government crisis.” 

The Liberal Party is pushing for a much less severe reduction, perhaps to a little more than half the current level, where 30.5 percent of all petrol and diesel must be biofuel. 

“We have signed up to a temporary reduction in the biofuels obligation, and it’s clear that that is what we are going to do, but zero is not an alternative for us,” the Liberal Party’s leader Johan Pehrson told TV4.

The decision to reduce the amount of biofuel in the mix at Swedish pumps has made it much more difficult for Sweden to meet its targets for emissions reductions, putting pressure on Pehrson’s colleague, Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari. 

Next Wednesday, Pourmokhtari will have to defend the extent to which her government’s policies have pushed Sweden away from being able to meet its 2045 target of net zero emissions when the The Swedish Climate Policy Council reports on the country’s progress towards its target.