Aside from the issue of party leadership that I have written about here, what else can we learn from the Swedish election campaign Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for the sake of the future of the Swedish Social Democrats, and for Labour too? Beyond any debate that may arise here, this will be the issue for the second EUROPA-SoirÃƒÂ©e of the Labour Movement for Europe, taking place on Tuesday 17th October [more info] – all are welcome!
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reflect: what did the Social Democrats do well in their campaign, and what did they do badly? Above all else, the publicity materials and internet campaigns rank as the major campaign successes as far as I am concerned. When it comes to these issues, Labour has a lot to learn.
The many election posters across Stockholm looked professional while the slogans were strong and clear. The materials handed out to voters struck a similar note, with happy people holding Ã¢â‚¬ËœAlla Ska MedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ signs (means Everyone Is Coming Along). After a shaky start, the main Social Democrat website improved a lot, and hundreds of party branches and activists used S-Info to publicise the campaign.
The juryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out when it comes to two other major components of the Social DemocratsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ efforts: the valstugan and the press and media work during the election. The valstugan (election huts) have long been the bedrock of election campaigning in Sweden; potter along to the hut in your local town centre and have a chat with the local politicians. But do these huts actually change much? They are also very resource-intensive (see below). It also proved consistently hard for the Social Democrats to get their messages across in the press throughout the campaign: an issue of the right-wing press ownership, or a matter of the message?
However, the most serious problem with the whole campaign in my mind was the extremely inefficient use of the massive human and financial resources that the Social Democrats have at their disposal. Leafleting routes were not properly mapped out or effectively manned. There seems to be little logic behind decisions of who to send where to do what campaigning, and little communication with activists about the core messages that needed to be explained to activists. Further, while it might be quite sweet and pleasant, is handing out roses to voters the most effective way to get the message out?
I think the latter issue is in large part due to the problems of a party having been in power for too long; complacency develops as officials stay in their jobs for too long. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure where door-knocking organised according to a military style plan (as Labour does) would work in Sweden Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it does not match the electoral culture Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but changes are badly needed, or else the 2010 election might look quite grim too.