Internal comments: This is a comment. The commentary expresses the writer’s attitude.
It made an impression to see the pain in Kjell Ingolf Ropstad’s face at the press conference on Saturday. I hope he gets waffles and comfort from his loved ones now. At the press conference, he appeared to be a sincerely repentant sinner and humbly answered all questions. But the departure was inevitable.
Ropstad did the only right thing by resigning both as Minister and KrF leader. Further investigation will show whether his creative tax planning is punishable or not. In any case, it is politically untenable. You can not cheat on the tax and at the same time be responsible for the state budget. It is so obvious that Ropstad should have left earlier.
Crisis management rule number one is to put all the cards on the table and apologize all at once. Ropstad has done everything other than this, and thus allowed himself to be driven from bulwark to bulwark. First, Aftenposten revealed that Ropstad had received free commuter housing for ten years because he was registered in the boys ‘room at his parents’ home. It was embarrassing for the father of the family who for many of these years has owned and rented out housing in the Oslo area. Ropstad stated that he had not tried to use the system, but also did not want to pay anything back. He believed that he had not broken any rules.
It was wrong, and Ropstad knew it before the election. He must have held his breath while Aftenposten constantly revealed new details. Only after KrF’s worst election in 85 years did the newspaper reveal that Ropstad has given incorrect information to the Prime Minister’s office. By stating that he had expenses for housing in his home municipality, Ropstad avoided taxing the benefit of free government housing and therefore saved 175,000 kroner in tax last year. Ropstad admitted that he has made deliberate moves to avoid taxes. He has also not paid tax for the commuter apartments he has had as a parliamentary representative. In total, Ropstad would according to Aftenposten’s calculations have paid NOK 820,000 in taxes and fees.
The Storting’s presidency will now thoroughly review the schemes again. It will hopefully lead to cleanup in a system that has been too easy to abuse. There are probably more politicians who should have taxed their commuter homes, but who have not. However, the cleaning job should not ruin the scheme. Politicians should be able to take key positions without having to pay for two homes.
The cleaning job in KrF becomes far more difficult. The party is still divided after the upsetting direction election in 2018. In the parliamentary election a week ago, KrF ended up below the threshold for the first time, they are left with only three representatives in the Storting. Ropstad is the one. Thus, one of the other two, Olaug Bollestad or Dag Inge Ulstein, must take over as party leader. Fortunately for KrF, both are solid candidates.
Now the party must evaluate the crisis choice. And through the process of electing a new party leader, the choice of direction will once again simmer in the background. Ulstein agreed with Knut Arild Hareide that KrF should cooperate on the left on the political axis. Bollestad stood together with Ropstad in the fight for the bourgeois side. As is well known, they won after a raw power struggle agreed in the back room with Erna Solberg behind the party leader’s back.
“A historic opportunity to push through changes in the abortion law,” Ropstad told the party and voters.
The promise was broken, that there were no historical austerity measures anyway. The Prime Minister’s courtship was first and foremost about section 2C of the Abortion Act, which gives the right to abortion after week twelve of sick fetuses. Such a change never received a majority, but the Solberg government changed the law on another point: Fetal reduction. Now women who want to reduce the number of fetuses in the womb must go to a tribunal. This applies to few women and does not reduce the number of abortions, but the tightening was the first change in the law in 40 years.
The effect was a violent backlash, large demonstrations and a strong awareness of abortion. This in turn led to internal debate in other parties – and that the red-green parties went to the polls on various proposals to extend the right to self-determined abortion. The abortion debate Ropstad started will end with a liberalization of the law.
In the government negotiations was KrF’s biggest victory that the Granavolden declaration gave KrF a veto in matters of biotechnology. The party was allowed to stop all proposals for changes in this law, such as egg donation and early ultrasound. But as soon as the majority government became a minority government, the veto was worth zero. The first thing the FRP did after they left the government offices was to provide a crushing defeat for KrF in the Storting. FRP secured a majority for all liberal changes in the Biotechnology Act, against the government’s votes.
The biggest victories for KrF in the Solberg government actually came in the budget collaborations before they entered the government. KrF was successful the teacher norm, which ensures more teachers across the country. They also got through the first increase in child benefit since 1996. The fact that Kjell Ingolf Ropstad became Minister for Children and Families was intended to follow up such initiatives with new ones.
He fought and won. Then he lost everything. Ropstad took KrF into government and then led it to the party’s worst election result since 1936. No one knows how it would have gone if Hareide had not forced the choice of direction three years ago – or if he had won with his line. But Ropstad’s time at the top at least had a sad outcome. He was struck by his own greed.