Swedish left share British Tories' Euroscepticism

April 19, 1996

The Euroscepticism of part of the Conservative right has found an echo in a very different traditional governing party, the Swedish Social Democrats. But the British rebels have been much more effective than their Swedish counterparts, said Paul Taggart of Sussex University.

He argued at the PSA conference that the different styles of the two groups had contributed to their relative fortunes. The British Eurosceptics concentrated almost entirely on a single issue and found it easier to maintain coherence.

They were also a self-defining maverick group. "You only have to think of the famous picture of John Redwood's backers gathered around him at the time of the Conservative leadership elections," he said. "It's a pretty weird group."

But they recognised their own eccentricity and marginality and had no expectations of rising within their party hierarchy. Because of this, they were comfortable in the role of rebel.

"The typical rebel was distant from the centre of his or her party but close to his or her own heart and not unduly concerned to be in a vociferous, vocal minority. This was a source of strength for the faction as a whole."

The Swedes were a very different proposition. Most were still closely linked to their party.

"When you have hopes of rising in an organisation, the threat of exclusion can hurt badly," said Dr Taggart. They were uncomfortable with their role.

"Several of them said clearly that they didn't like being rebels. They tended to explain their opposition in terms of having to respond to the views and needs of Swedish labour.

"By contrast, the British rebels saw themselves as being ahead of the game, hoping to move rather than follow public opinion."

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