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Uddrag af polemik mod Blairs nye, nye Labour…………………http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php?id=5344&page=2

Issue: 4 December 2004

It might be possible to regard Sweden with a certain benign affection. Many of its exports have been most welcome in Britain. After all, this is the country which gave us Ulrika Jonsson, Abba and Ikea furniture. Not only that, but Sweden has had the wisdom to keep out of the euro, makes sensible cars and generally seems to be a good thing.

There is, however, another Sweden. Setting aside its crime rate, which is the highest in Europe, and its problem of alcoholism, both feats which Britain is attempting to emulate, this is the mother of high- tax nations.

Sweden’s tax burden is an eye-watering 50.8 per cent of GDP, compared with 35.3 per cent here and 25.4 per cent in the US. Nearly £6 of every £10 in the country is spent by the government. About 10 per cent of the Swedish workforce are on sick leave at any one time. But the Left in Britain has always become misty-eyed at the thought that there might be a socialist, or at least semi-socialist, enclave in the world that works.

I can still remember Neil Kinnock’s instant response when, as Labour leader, he was asked if socialism had been successful in any country. Yes, he exclaimed: Sweden. In fact Sweden has paid a heavy price for its generous welfare state.

In 1970 Sweden’s GDP per capita was the third highest in the world; by 2000, it had fallen to 17th and is now lower than all but five southern states in the US. Between 1980 and 1999, the gross income of Sweden’s poorest households increased by just over 6 per cent, while the rise in the US was three times as fast.

The brief intervention of a conservative government in the early 1990s introduced economic and public service reforms, including tax reductions, which dramatically improved Sweden’s economic performance, resulting in a period of better growth and lower unemployment. But ironically these are policy lessons which New Labour refuses to learn.

Sweden has successfully introduced school choice, but this has been rejected by our government. Under bold Swedish health reform a quarter of patient visits are now with private providers, but the Health Secretary John Reid has arbitrarily declared that at the most 15 per cent of care may be supplied by the independent sector to NHS patients.

Instead, the government seems intent on importing the worst features of the Swedish model to Britain: its prohibition of smacking (introduced in 1979, as we elected Margaret Thatcher); its partial smoking ban, which came into force earlier this year; and, most damaging of all, elements of its welfare system. Sweden has the world’s most generous system of universal childcare and enables parents to be at home with their children for up to 16 months of paid leave.

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