Monday, January 17

Big Prime Minister interview: Here is Støre’s Christmas message

THE CABIN: Jonas Gahr Støre and his wife Marit Slagsvold are going to the cabin this Christmas and the New Year weekend. Unless there are new corona crises that will keep him in the city. In this interview, he talks about a somewhat surprising common passion.

THE PRIME MINISTER’S RESIDENCE (VG) Jonas Gahr Støre got electricity and a South African nightmare in his lap. Here he tells about the way forward – out of the corona. And then he reveals that his wife is a blood fan of a driver in the Formula 1 circus.

This was supposed to be a Christmas interview.

But a new South African coronavirus variant – omicron – means that we unfortunately have to start by asking the Prime Minister if he can promise the Norwegian people a normal Easter.

– We must do two things to reduce the infection. If we succeed in that, we have laid a very good foundation for living a more normal life, he says.

Without wanting to set a time for Christmas 2021 lasts until Easter.

– Will reduce the chance significantly

The two things he refers to are the last few weeks’ measures – led by a bar stop and a meter – which are to limit contacts at school, communication and daily life.

The second is to get three vaccines out to the adult population this winter.

– It will significantly reduce the chances of becoming seriously ill if you become infected, he says.

This was to be Jonas Gahr Støre’s year: Finally Prime Minister.

Then the pandemic flared up powerfully again – electricity prices went crazy and his party fell from around 25 to down to 20 percent in several December polls.

NEW FRAMEWORK FOR THE FAMILY’S CHRISTMAS: Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his wife have moved from the family’s residence at Ris in Oslo, to the Prime Minister’s residence just behind the Palace. – Here we will be four who will celebrate Christmas, he says.

It is for these reasons that we meet a thoughtful Prime Minister.

– The weight of the pandemic into Norwegian society, as we now see it, will affect everything else we will do in the future. Nevertheless, it is important for me to say that we have already started many things to make Norway fairer and start the transition to the green shift, even though it has received a little less attention than electricity and corona, he says.

– Take care of each other

Here is his Christmas message to the Norwegian people – in the time of the corona.

– For me, both personally and politically, I want to say that Christmas this year must be associated with hope. It’s about seeing that there is something better on the other side. We will get over the pandemic together: We have managed to reduce the infection before, and we will manage it again.

He adds:

– I know that many have once again had their lives turned upside down by the time we are in and are worried about the future, but I hope that the Norwegian people have a calm and peaceful time with family and close friends: Take care of each other.

Ask us to follow the recommendations

Støre and his wife have a house on Ris in Oslo, but with the prime minister’s job and security needs, they have moved into the prime minister’s residence behind the Palace.

– So you celebrate in your own house?

– No, we are celebrating here in the Prime Minister’s residence. Then I hope that during Christmas in space I can go to the cabin with my closest family. And according to the plan, we will be there over the New Year.

Støre says those with the family’s plans will not have problems keeping the recommendations for few close contacts.

– What about those who are up to ten on Christmas Eve and meet more at Christmas in space and plan to be around ten on New Year’s Eve?

– The recommendation is that those who live in the household can have ten guests and once at Christmas 20. Then you can put it together yourself.

– 20-30 on New Year’s Eve does not go?

– No, the maximum recommendation is 20 guests once during the Christmas and New Year holidays. If you do not have it on Christmas Eve, you can have it on New Year’s Eve. They are up to you, but the purpose of the recommendations is that we should follow them to reduce the number of close contacts.

DECORATED: We do not get inside the most sacred, the family’s completely private part of the Prime Minister’s residence, but all over the house it is decorated for Christmas, also in the representation residence, where this photo was taken.

2021 was the year when it was ordinary people’s turn:

Aps election campaign motto has pleased – and annoyed others.

– 2021 is for me the story that the social democracy in Norway found itself, from a low starting point at the beginning of the year, but with a great sense that we had shaped politics and a program that the whole party organization felt that “this is ours”:

This is how he sums up the Labor year.

– Labor should never go completely in step

He refers to the late LO leader, Hans-Christian Gabrielsen, who used the term «workers’ interest party».

– It’s now ordinary people’s turn. The use of those words is not just an election campaign slogan, but it is leading the policy we pursue every day – even in crises.

His path to power has been long and thorny.

He survived the election defeat in 2017, but the years since have been marked by internal unrest, where it has been written about a leadership that has not cooperated particularly well.

– Do you feel that you are now going in step?

– The Labor Party should never go completely in step. It is when opinions are broken that ideas and forces are unleashed. In the autumn of 2017, we had no clear direction, it took time to get through. But now I experience that we have it.

Brings out two Labor women

He says that the process in the program committee also gave a different result.

– It was nice to see the role that the then AUF leader Ina Libak played – and Tonje Brenna, who I chose as Minister of Education, I got to see as a great politician through the program work. We made the arrows point in one and the same direction.

– You mention here a couple of young women, who could be possible future party leaders?

– What I think has been inspiring this autumn is that from having to listen to commentators who say that there are no new talents in the Labor Party, we now see a flora of younger experienced politicians both in the parliamentary group and in the government.

– Honest attempt

– Is not a major defeat in 2021 that you failed to form a majority government, where you could largely govern from the government offices without having to run to the Storting all the time to secure a majority?

– It is rare for politics to get worse from visiting the Storting. We got SV to make an honest attempt, I think that was important. The fact that it did not lead to a three-party government there and then, I am the first to regret. I still believe today that it would have been possible.

It has been argued that Støre strategically missed the polls; that he should make sure to put away heavy cases that were disagreed about, and come back to them when SV and Sp had had so many victories that they finally had to swallow some of the big heavy cases in the last phase of the polls.

– I could not force Sp

Støre’s version is different.

Sp went to Hurdal to clarify some key issues first, as a criterion for moving forward with negotiations. Those were the difficult things for them. I think it was an honest entrance.

– Then the party that did not want SV in government, had to lay the premises?

– I could not force Sp to move away from that approach. I still believe that where we were, when SV decided to leave Hurdal, had a starting point that could give a result with all three parties. But it was SV’s choice.

When we entered this room, there were documents on the table. Støre quickly gathered them together. – The New Year’s speech, he laughs: – I have started it.

When we ask him to look into 2022, he highlights three issues.

– The three major 2022 themes – in addition to fighting the pandemic – are to get people into work, accelerate the green transition and strengthen our common health care system, he says:

– The biggest challenge is to ensure that more people can get a job; to qualify people who are outside, into working life.

He says we are in a situation where people are unemployed, at the same time as there is a shortage of labor in important sectors.

– There is still a fairly large vacancy rate. Not even a country like Norway can go untouched through a crisis like this.

Green prioritization of technologies

He says the other big challenge is to reduce emissions.

– We must get started with the green shift; see connection between oil / energy, industry, climate and environment and research and higher education.

– How?

– Among other things, we will, together with the business community and the parties in working life, agree on the main priorities, including which technologies we will prioritize.

Points to more than the nurses

The third area he will prioritize next year is health.

Støre says there are no stocks of infection control equipment that determine how we handle the pandemic.

– It is the quality of a welfare state with a health care system that is able to respond when the pandemic hits. This applies to the entire model; municipal health services, GPs, hospitals and elderly care. It has so far served Norway well.

He says that new nursing positions in hospitals are not the whole solution.

– Right now there is a lot of focus on the intensive care units and that is right, but I’m just as worried about the situation around the municipalities; those who meet sick in the front line.

PROUD OF THE PICTURE ON THE WALL: Here is my new office, says Støre during our walk in the Prime Minister’s residence. He proudly tells how he managed to get a favorite picture of Fridtjof Nansen himself.

He warns that NAV must be on its toes.

– We need more people in NAV who work in teams that can be out and meet people.

Støre points out that since he became prime minister, he has visited several NAV offices, including in Bodø and Lillestrøm.

– There I have seen when the good people there do their job: They get people into work; The 20-year-old who sat at home and did nothing, he says and refers to a female NAV employee’s efforts.

– She got him into a carpentry company where he contributes and experiences that the company that needs him and helps him – and he gets dignity and has gained a foothold in working life. We need to do more of that.

Prefers wine for the ribs

The Prime Minister’s residence has several parts, including one for press conferences, one for representation and one more private.

Although there are often employed chefs who contribute food when there are official visits, he promises that he has enough room for maneuver to rule the kitchen on Christmas Eve.

– It will be me and ribs with a new oven, so we can hope that it will be good. The wife decorates and I cook, the Prime Minister chuckles.

He says they prefer wine to beer and aquavit.

We walk around and look.

After a bottle of Jägermeister: It attracted a lot of attention when such a bottle stood behind him in the kitchen during a VG interview last year.

BOTTLE HUNT: Støre discovers that VG is walking around looking for a certain bottle of brown liquor. He says it’s somewhere else.

He’s laughing.

– I have no one standing outside now, but I have brought one with me, which is in the fridge. I actually have several, such small bottles, which it has become very fun to give me as a gift after that picture.

– Blood fan

He tells about an unknown side of the Støre / Slagsvold couple:

They sit and watch some of the world’s fastest cars drive around and around – and around.

– The wife is a blood fan of Hamilton, says Støre and tells enthusiastically about how they follow the Grand Prix rounds in Formula 1.

Hamilton is named Lewis and has taken over the Formula 1 throne after the legend Michael Schumacher.

Støre tells enthusiastically about the last round of Christmas in space, where Hamilton led by twelve seconds and was about to win clearly, when a car crashed and the race was stopped.

– But then they have a system where the entire lead is zeroed out when they start up again. Then something is fermenting, he says annoyed.

NOTE PROBLEMS: There is a piano in the living room. Støre says he can try, but that it was a challenge when he went to piano lessons as a child. – I never managed to learn the notes. Fortunately, both girls have learned that, he says.

In the end, the upstart Max Verstappen beat the family’s favorite in the race and won this year’s championship.

– There was a very bad atmosphere in the living room, says Støre and does not give up.

– I do not mind that there are challengers, but saw you earlier this fall; then Verstappen drove up to Hamilton’s car. Then Verstappen got out of the car without seeing how Hamilton was doing.

He indignantly adds:

– I do not think Hamilton had done that. He’s a gentleman.

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