Sweden's 'Cameron' offers an electable right-wing

He is a young father of three who moved his party of right-wingers to the centre ground, bringing it to the threshold of power after years in the wilderness. While David Cameron has revitalised British politics, something similar has happened in Sweden with the rise of the opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Since taking the helm of the Swedish conservatives, known as the Moderates, a little more than two years ago, Mr Reinfeldt has pushed through a programme of radical changes, producing the fastest, most dramatic, makeover in Swedish political history.

Elections loom in September and the Moderates have been out of power for even longer than the British Tories, last holding office in 1994. But, at 40, the Swedish opposition leader now stands a good chance of replacing the Social Democrat Göran Persson, who has been Prime Minister for even longer than Tony Blair.

In the 2002 elections the Moderates won just 15.2 per cent of the vote; now their opinion poll rating is almost double that. Mr Reinfeldt has slaughtered several of the right's sacred cows, banished the older generation of neo-liberals and ushered in a new era of caring, social conservatism.

According to Tobias Billström, a 32-year-old Swedish MP and ally of Mr Reinfeldt: "It has been quite a remarkable change that has taken place."

Mr Reinfeldt's personal ratings are higher than those of Mr Persson, whose domination of Swedish politics has been so total that his nickname, roughly translated, means "he who decides".

Bald and stocky, Mr Reinfeldt bears a closer physical resemblance to William Hague than David Cameron, but his politics are decidedly to the left. In 2002, 90 per cent of tax cuts proposed by the Moderates were directed at the top 10 per cent of the income scale. Now the emphasis has been shifted to lower earners.

Trade unions and labour legislation have been presented as an asset rather than a liability. And the opposition leader has reaffirmed his commitment to Sweden's generous welfare state, calling for more money for schools and health care. He wants more effort to integrate immigrants and financial incentives for fathers to stay at home with their new-borns.

Such a shift to the centre has been controversial within the party. Mats Wiklund, author of an acclaimed biography of Mr Reinfeldt, said: "The secret of his success has been to occupy the centre ground. But to him this is a huge risk, banking on the fact that it will bring electoral victory.

"To govern is very important for Moderates. The question remains: what happens if they lose: Will he be able to hold the party's position in the centre?"

Critics of Mr Reinfeldt are keeping their peace until the elections but will not remain quiet if the result goes the other way.

Polls show the Alliance, a coalition of of Moderates and three other opposition parties, is ahead of the Social Democrats, the Socialists and the Greens. But, with the economy performing well, the Prime Minister is fighting hard to retain his job and his party is a formidable vote-winning machine, having been in power for all but nine years since 1932.

Nevertheless Mr Billström says it is already possible to draw some conclusions from his party's success. "It is not about a makeover," he says. "It is about showing people that we are here, we have changed - and not just the logo but the substance behind it."

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin