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Shakin' in the Cuff

Swedish PM Reinfeldt's last stand?


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Darra på manschetterna (shake/tremble in the cuffs): to appear nervous. When your hands are shaking, your cuffs are too.
 - Swedish Wiktionary


Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is a polished sort. He's been cultivated by the international arm of the US Republican Party for the past 30 years, he's had the services of Karl 'Turd Blossom' Rove for the past ten, he's cool, he always speaks in that studied baritone like his predecessor, he exudes confidence. But of course it's all an act.

The question now is how long he can keep it up.

Reinfeldt's predecessor Göran Persson was much the same way. The old social democrat PM was considered a buffalo, a Napoleon. He had a way of meeting the media and his opponents - a way they didn't like. Yet encountering Göran on the town when out roaming the streets to party was a different experience altogether - there he was a follower rather than a leader. It's an act. It always is. People will soon discover it's much the same with Reinfeldt.

A political crisis such as the current one with the Saudi arms deal would normally be more than enough to bring a government down. But we've witnessed a sea change in the past 10 years, a change best summed up by Frank Zappa's classic quote.


'The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.'

We saw this when Karl Rove refused to appear in DC to answer questions. We saw this again in 2010. Nick Clegg walked into the House of Commons and demanded the MPs begin an investigation into British war crimes in the Middle East, this after the revelations of the Afghan War Diaries by WikiLeaks. David Cameron walked into the House of Commons the following day and told them to forget it. The US Special Rapporteur on Torture demanded Obama begin a similar investigation and Obama just ignored him.

You couldn't get away with this in the old days.

Hlllary Clinton holds a conference on freedom of speech all the while she lashes out at WikiLeaks. No one in the corridors of power raises an eyebrow.

Julian Assange wins award after award for the work of WikiLeaks and yet he's still branded a terrorist. You couldn't get away with this in the old days. The curtains are pulled back now and no one in the corridors of power cares anymore.

Things are even dicier in Stockholm. For who's to call for the downfall of Fredrik Reinfeldt for his traitorous management of Sweden? The opposition is led by the social democrats, and they're the ones who started the bloody mess back in 2005: agreeing to sell weapons and weapons technologies to one of the most repressive regimes in the world, something expressly forbidden by Swedish law.

Reinfeldt appears to be working to make his cabinet minister Tolgfors the scapegoat, but it's too early to tell. No plans need be finalised at this stage. Everyone is fighting to make someone else the scapegoat they don't want to be. Tolgfors is of course guilty as sin, but so is Reinfeldt.

They worked in secret, without telling the Swedish people, they worked concertedly to hide the facts from the Swedish people just as they've done with their secret agreements with their US friends, they created a dummy corporation to hide the fact they were dealing with Saudi Arabia.

But Reinfeldt's interview with Swedish state radio 9 March 2012 might be the event that finally makes him shake in the cuff, whether he thinks so or not. Reinfeldt, whose separation from his spouse of 20 years was only made public a short time before, said the following to the Swedish people.


'All decisions made by the Swedish government are made based on the framework agreement we have with Saudi Arabia. As long as we have that type of framework agreement, and the ability to act in accordance with that framework agreement, as long as we stay within the law and follow our regulations. And that's what my government have done.'

Swedish radio then asked him:

'But why is that good? Is that good for Sweden?'

And Reinfeldt's reply:

'You'll never get me to shake in the cuff when it's about more jobs, about something that gives Sweden better export opportunities. Sweden built its welfare, its riches, its capability for good healthcare, good welfare, on our ability to trade with other countries. We've discussed this a long time: how small open economies can manage in a competitive climate.'

There are so many things wrong with that reply it's not funny.

1.
Fredrik Reinfeldt's been fighting against the Swedish social welfare model all his life. His life has been dedicated to destroying that model, the model that inspired the other countries of Europe to follow suit, so that life in the EU today is so much better than anywhere else.

There've been books written about Reinfeldt and his long term GOP/Rove goals. He'll back away from denying food to the starving but not from anything else. The 'decent standard of living' written into today's social legislation has to go. He's been dismantling the social insurance system for the past six years. So claiming he's intentionally breaking the law to help people in need won't wash with anyone.

2.
That old right wing Milton Friedman 'trickle down' theory Reagan so loved and Reinfeldt is implying is bunkum and they all know it. Any benefits from a deal with the Saudis go to people Fredrik Reinfeldt hangs out with on the cocktail party circuit - not to the ragged working classes he so despises.

3.
It doesn't matter how much sentimental rhetoric Fredrik Reinfeldt can counter with - what he's done is contrary to Swedish regulations and he knows it. That's why he tried to hide it from the Swedish people. They call it 'mens rea' in the courts: his efforts to conceal what he's doing gives it away.

Fredrik Reinfeldt says boastfully that nothing will get him to shake in the cuff for trying to do the best thing for Sweden. But Fredrik Reinfeldt is not trying to do the best thing for Sweden and he never has. And everything indicates after this Richter Scale tremor this week in Swedish politics that Fredrik Reinfeldt is already shaking in the cuff.

See Also
Industry Watch: Project Simoom
Swedish Radio: Reinfeldt: Vårt välstånd bygger på handel (Swedish)

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