tirsdag 11. juni 2013

Norsk Labour Party Bows Out

The "red green" reign over Norway is bowing out this year almost without doubt. Like most two termers of any political shade, their custodial term picks up enough bugs along the way as to lead the public to want something else.

From another stand point however, the last 8 years have reversed some attitudes that poorer labour conditions are a necessary evil for us all to have jobs: the reverse is true, good labour conditions makes for higher standard of living, higher employment as people move up the socio-economic ladder with high average wages relative to house prices.

And there have been failures. The latest is the railway budget: they have indeed vastly increased the budget in the last 7 years, but 1.2 Bn NOK have been sucked up into central administration and planning. You can't avoid the fact though that it was the failed Bondevik government which privatised the maintenance sector, which then disastrously cut out quality, delivery end labour which they never won back.

Now however, the "jernbanverket" have become an Oslo parasite of project management and quality and safety strategy. Just like much of the centralised Oslo beaurocracies, private or public, the rest of Norway delivers while the parasitic pontificators in Oslo plan and strategise. All the place-men and women-who-lunch on their million krone a year (about the london equivalent of 90£K) to theorise and write reports and go to endless meetings, but never actually achieve very much.

Labour here also had a series of failed projects due to this Oslo theoretical "richest country on earth" approach. Firstly the gas plant at Mongstad: pumping CO2 back into the oil wells under pressure in sea water where it may become lime stone one day. However the R&D write off evapourated - they were very naive to think they could get away with this in the european electricity grid and global carbon-trading.

The next and most blatant fail for a "Green" government was the lunatic plan to have deep underground 300km/h trains between the major southern half cities. SO while the railway around Oslo resembles something by in large from 1973 on many commuter routes, and even longer back in time as you trundle down to the towns either side of the "oslo fjord", they aimed high, and came crashing back to earth twice - first when the tunneling costs and geological survey costs showed themselves to be many time higher than "guestimates" in the national plan

Crazy idea, more crazy than the "ferry free" journey with four lanes to Stavanger. Okay it makes things faster but there just isn't the volume of traffic North of Bergen for bridges over the finer fjords there, and between Kristiansand and Stavanger the population is sparse, and a lot of freight goes straight to international shipping or supply vessels from both harbours.

However, that said the FRP  (semi thatcherite, populist "progress" party)  they do have a good point, in linking many communities closer together, reducing delivery times, opening up labour markets, expanding the commuter zones and boosting rural and small town property markets. They could probably achieve as much by decentralising Oslo beaurocracy and encouraging major companies to open regional head quarters in mid and north norway as the oil exploration moves north.

It is ironic then that the slowest and most ridiculous gap in  Norway's limited Motorway network is passed a site well known to visitors by air, Torp Sandefjord airport. Some miles north, the motorway abruptly becomes a rather silly extra wide A road with lots of yokal traffic including the odd tractor. Then a while later, hey presto, the new section past Sandefjord to Larvik and another new section west of there opens before localy political arguements were a memory and turf wad broken north and south of Torp to make for joined up writing, All held up by arguements between right wing local councils and the state road directorate.  Finally there will be four lanes from Oslo to Larvik within the next year or so.

Back to Labour's failures here: the Utøya massacre has I think managed to go full circle and reflect badly on the labour movement: the core support is with working class and middle class public sector service employees. Labour now looks like a shambles of minority pandering: immigrants and homosexuals.

Finally we come to the root of both Norwegian Socialist attitudes and also a good deal of enterprise here. People are now a bit fed up that the rich get a fair bit more than they can : "you are getting something I am not" is the root of popular vote for the red-greens here. However that has run its course with most people actually not wanting to go down to a 35 hour week, or have any more holiday!  Just this last week the policy of national intervention on development in the "beach zone", somethign I by in large agree with, has revealed the truth behind the apparent egalitarianism in Norway: now you have to be pretty rich to afford a plot or to redevelope a prime site, or to pay a lawyer to get you out of the "Owner-occupier-convenant" (I am such a fan of as a Scot from the west, where white settlers and holiday home buyers are a plague driving depopulation and demands on the local health services when the old buggers retire without a family within 500 miles!) Two of my pals have been grumbling about access to buy plots: they have had it good and want a piece of the beach: the trouble is of course, that in south-land Norway there are a million locals and then there a couple million more who may look over the fence if plot prices were within second mortgage reach.

The beach, even privately owned, outwith 50 m of a house or established dock is actually free for access to all, so privatising the beach will of course lead to MORE exclusivity and the usual market of speculators and quick-buckers who will drive up prices.

However, the government has held back for a decade effectively, rampant development along the desirable stretches, and it will probably be replaced by some form of planning application and possibly actually more restrictions and awareness on the most accessible areas.

Failure however has to be measured against the quiet legacies of governments. The green reds have as I said, extended the belief that everyone should share and that labour conditions should improve over time, even if that is slowly. They teach us that you can have a successful economy based on not just national resources but global economic investment and ROI with Statoil and Hydro and the shipping lines, Aker Solutions, Ullsteinvik and so on being world leaders. You can have a socialist -capatilist paradise, it comes with some side effects, but many other countries HAVE as much wealth and economic activity per capita, it is just they do not believe in distribution of wealth: rather the rat-race and the american fake dream.

The leftist governance of the last 7 years or so, leaves another strong part of this legacy, much as the Thatcher years change the centre of gravity in English politics inextricably, so has the "wet" conservative governments before and the strong labour movement moved the ball into their side of the field. Now the population want to play with the ball in the right side of the field, and wo-betied them because new labour laws on longer hours and less pay are waiting in the wings, dressed up as "Postive privatisation" - privatise the management classes in Oslo first is my response.

However the greatest achievement in  last seven or eight years for Jens Stoltenberg is to have made the conservative party "Høyere" into a pussified centre right party, mostly to the left of the UK and German leftist parties who  have been dragged into the right side of the pitch by this centre of gravity effect. A cautious, boring Erna Solberg will reign for one or two terms and continue building the roads Jens started and generally not interfere with labour laws very much and rather concentrate on giving people a feeling of freedom, and probably making some parts of the health service more effective by privatisation, and maybe sorting out the rail maitenance structure maybe just maybe and all in a shade of political pink which Jens will be proud off.

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