screenshot of Carl Bildt's blogAt the Personal Democracy Forum last weekend there was a lot of talk about how politicians might blog authentically. I mentioned the way that Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, blogs: very personally. As I spoke I realised how very different his style is to most US politicians, and I thought it would be useful to translate one of his posts to show you how it’s different. This is a translation of his latest post, published at 3:03 am this morning (though whether that’s US time or Swedish time I don’t know.)

Day one in Washington

Late to bed after an (as usual) very productive day of conversations in Washington.

The after effects of Fredrik’s visit here last week are as tangible as they are good. It has been noticed that our government has given the trans-Atlantic relations new importance.

And throughout my conversations here today I have felt a strengthened sense of the importance of relationships with Europe.

The thought that the USA can do everything by itself is not at all as prominent as a few years ago. And there are strong hopes for what the combination of new political leadership in various European countries might produce.

I’ve been going back and forwards between the State Department, the Finance Department, the Senate and the White House – with my customary lunch at Barnes and Noble’s big bookstore in Georgetown – and finished with dinner at Ambassador Gunnar Lund’s in the fine Swedish residence up on Nebraska Avenue.

There we had succeeded in gathering quite a significant selection of the city’s interesting thinkers and [opinion-holders?] for a lively dinner discussion about common strategies for the next five years.

It was certainly lively. Often the discussion turned to Iraq. But almost just as often to the question about Russia’s future. And always to the balance between the so-called soft and the so-called hard power in both USA and Europe and the need for a better balance between the both and across the Atlantic.

Tomorrow a full day awaits me, mostly in the State Department, starting with my discussions with foreign minister [he uses the Swedish term] Rice.

Previously, years would pass between discussions between our countries at this level.

Now it’s only been about half a year since the last time.

The “Fredrik” he mentions is presumably Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden – what a typically Scandinavian way of keeping everything casual and down-to-earth. We Scandinavians like our politicians and royalty to be like regular people, and to follow the law of Jante, not thinking they’re better than anyone else. Official Swedish government photo of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt(This is both a cool thing and a sucky thing about Scandinavia.) A quick google found me this wonderful photo of Fredrik Reinfeldt – look at what a man of the people he is! Just a man in the crowd, actually behind (anonymous) firemen or policemen and regular people, but as the others in the crowd look away or hide their faces, the Prime Minister smiles confidently straight at us from beneath a Swedish flag, a flag he doesn’t even wield himself, no no, it’s simply his, given to him by the people, held by an unseen stranger. This is his official presentation at the Swedish government’s website. Heh. That photo speaks the same language as Carl Bildt’s blog, I think.

You’ll notice there are no links – Carl Bildt never links, making his blog look more like a diary than a political blog. Carl Bildt has open comments on his posts, and must moderate to some extent because there’s no spam and I haven’t seen any really offensive comments though some disagree with him, but he doesn’t seem to get involved in the comments discussion himself.

As someone at the conference pointed out, Carl Bildt’s blog might look very different if he were actively campaigning right now. As a more long-term strategy, though, I think this sort of post is likely to build up a trust, likeability and sense of authenticity that would certainly help in future campaigns.

What do you think? And do any other politicians blog in this personal-political way?

6 thoughts on “the swedish minister for foreign affairs blogs differently to US politicians

  1. Lars

    I think it would certainly be of help in his next campaign, if it is widely read. What we have here, is a poltician who shows his voters that he does actual work, not just campaigning and photo ops. During election campaigns, however, things tend to become over-simplified, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bildt suddenly became far more “on-message” (and vague and wordy) than this piece.
    A few of the younger members of parliament here in Norway keep rather personal (but still political) blogs. Heikki HolmÂs, for instance, is one I check in on from time to time, just because I sort of knew him back in the school days. Sadly, the first ever Norwegian politician blog, by (now) minister of fisheries Helga Pedersen, was shut down almost four years ago. I wish she’d start blogging again.

  2. Jill

    You’re right, Lars, one of the impressions I’m left with from this post is that he’s doing his job – and even letting me know a bit about what his job is, a rather vague notion for someone not in politics. I subscribe to Heikki’s blog too – he blogs differently, more bloggily in a way than Carl Bildt – I’ll have to think more about that.

  3. David Weman

    Thinking of Carl Bild as humble and down to earth makes me chuckle. Compared to Francois Mitterand, maybe. Maybe.

    His approach to blogging is unusual. His role in the current gov is that of a non-politician, an elder statesman, so he doesn’t try to pimp his government’s policies. More importantly, he started blogging when he was more completely retired from politics, and has kept on in the same vein.

  4. Tama

    Australia’s most interesting political blogger is Andrew Bartlett, a Democrat Senator from Queensland. His style isn’t as personal as Carl Bildt’s, but he is very concerned with talking about blogging as part of the political process (since his 15 May 07 post, for example). Sadly, there are only a tiny number of politicians blogging in Australia; I don’t think political blogs have the same audience here (Australia) as the they do in the US and Europe.

  5. Jill

    David, I really don’t know much about Carl Bildt – I’m more interested in the blogging than in Swedish politics, so having a bit more input on his style is useful. I didn’t call him humble, though – casual, that’s a different thing… Not having something to sell is important, I’m sure. Tama, thanks for the Australian blogging politician – Scandinavia really doesn’t have very many blogging politicians, either – though it sounds as though France and Germany have more.

  6. Cristian Concha

    Im a journalism student living in Spain, although I`m swedish. A couple of months ago i started to read the blogs written by swedish politicians. After four years in Spain, where politicians avoid all type of informal contact with the people, a swedish politicians blog is something remarkable. I got chocked when i read the casual way that these government oficials spoke about eachother, just using the first name and without a title. So now to my point, an open government is good, even if the swedish governemnt seem like summercamp sometimes judging from the blogs. Strangely however nobody in sweden now all the name of all the ministers. It is not the politicians duty to inform about everything, it`s the media, swedish media is quite soft on government. Here in Spain everybody knows who`s who in the government and that`s not due to blogging, it`s due to good newspapers. The blogs is only preaching to those who already are informed. The wide public dosen¥t get their information from blogs.
    But hey what do I know, Spain is like Sweden in 1995 in IT.


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