‘Good luck Lars’: Blair PR-chief’s Norway gaffe

Tony Blair’s former spindoctor Alastair Campbell has lavished praise on Norway’s Labour Party head for seeing politics as about "big themes requiring big ideas and big solutions”. It’s just a shame he gets his name wrong, twice!

'Good luck Lars': Blair PR-chief's Norway gaffe
Who? Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre apparently didn't make much of an impression on Tony Blair spindoctor Alastair Campbell. Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold / NTB scanpix
In a blog post this morning, reflecting on a “a short but inspiring” tour of Norway and Denmark, Campbell first refers to the Labour leader as “Jonas Lahr Store”, rather than “Jonas Gahr Støre” (although he can perhaps be be forgiven for dropping the ø). 
Then as he signs off on the post, he appears to refer to the Labour party leader as “Lars”. 
“Good luck to Lars. Good luck to Helle,” he says after making  paean to a mythical progressive union between parts of the UK and Scandinavia. “And long live UPALAND.” 
Støre's apparent failure to make a strong impression on Campbell is likely to be uncomfortable, given that the Labour leader is still struggling to fill the enormous gap left in Norwegian politics by his predecessor Jens Stoltenberg, now Nato Secretary General. 
According to Labour party spokeswoman Pia Gulbrandsen,  Campbell stayed in Oslo from Sunday evening until early Tuesday morning, holding meetings with campaign staffers, giving a talk to Labour MPs and staff, and going to watch Norway play Sweden at the national stadium, where he watched 16-year-old wunderkind Martin Ødegaard go up against Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 
“Mr Campbell kindly participated in the program free of charge, but the Labour party paid his ticket from London to Oslo,” she said. 
In his post, Campbell  said he met the Labour party's “strategy team” and deputy leaders. 
In his article, Campbell contrasted the narrow parochialism of British politics with the vision of Labour’s social democratic peers in Norway and Denmark. 
“What I loved about Norway was the answer of Labour leader Jonas Lahr Store when I asked him how he intended to win the next election,” he writes. “Often at times like this, a private chat over breakfast, the politician comes back to a question like that with smart tactical ideas, a good slogan and news of the hiring of a hotshot foreign advisor.” 
“He said this. ‘There are five big issues and give big themes for me and we need to build a campaign and an argument around them.’
Støre’s themes were population growth, ageing, urbanisation, technology and climate change. 
But Campbell, a political pragmatist if ever there was one, expresses his admiration that a politician would even think in such broad terms. 
“When he had finished I just put down my knife and fork and said thank you,” Campbell writes. “Thank you for being a political leader who sees election campaigns as being about big themes requiring big ideas and big solutions.” 
Campbell said that Støre had expressed surprise that the UK’s recent election campaign had been “so small and so parochial”. 
“You didn’t even debate Europe and now you are having a referendum?” Campbell quotes him as saying. 
He admits that in meetings with the party’s strategy team, he discovered that they did also think about campaign strategy. 
“They do the detail of campaigning too, not just big picture,” he writes. “But they were striving, two years out, to get the strategic building blocks in place. This is something that I am afraid Labour did not do with clarity or consistency.” 


Norway ‘forced into stricter lockdown’ by hospital cuts: opposition

Norway's opposition has accused the government of being forced into imposing a stricter lockdown because it was too ill prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

Norway 'forced into stricter lockdown' by hospital cuts: opposition
Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the Labour Party, told Dagbladet that the government had been unprepared. Photo: Labour Party
“The choice of the knock-down strategy was partly a result of the fact that we were too poorly prepared,” Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the Labour Party, said in an interview with the Dagbladet newspaper. 
Gahr Støre's attack signalled a dramatic end to more than six weeks of effective political ceasefire over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. 
The Labour party even voted for the government's emergency coronavirus law, despite harsh criticism from some circles. 
But in the interview, Gahr Støre said he believed the government's handling of the crisis, especially in the way that it prepared for it in advance, had showed severe shortcomings. . 
He said that hospitals in Norway had been in no position to care for a large number of critically ill patients, due to the reductions in real healthcare spending seen during six years of Conservative-led centre-right rule. 
“A hospital which has had budget cut after budget cut is not going to build up its own warehouse of protective equipment for infection control at the expense of cancer treatment or maternity ward staffing,” he told the newspaper. 
“The government's reaction when it realised the pandemic was serious was to take national control of all of these things, because the preparedness at that point was mostly just on paper.” 
Norway's health minister Bent Høie rejected the claim that healthcare had been underfunded under the Conservatives. 
“Støre's criticism on cuts in hospital budgets is incorrect,” he said. “In 2020 alone we have strengthened hospitals with 1.5bn kroner.” 
In the interview, Støre said that the government was continuing to mismanage the crisis, pointing to “uncertainties in the division of responsibility, reduced budgets for hospitals, lack of a national plan and continued scarcity of contamination equipment in the municipalities”. 
“The question has never been whether a pandemic would come, but when it would come,” he concluded. “And when that happened, we weren't well prepared enough.”