Vily Søvndal: “I’m staying!”

Socialistisk Folkeparti leader guarantees to remain party boss

After a week of controversy within his party, Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF) chairman Vily Søvndal is working to squash speculation that he is thinking of relinquishing his leadership role.

“I would like to make it clear that SF’s leader is not decided by opinion polls,” said Søvndal. “I am not the type to leave when the going gets tough. I’m staying, if anyone should be in doubt.”

SF seemed at loose ends last week after party leaders appeared to disagree about just who they wanted to represent them. In an interview with Jyllands-Posten newspaper, the tax minister, Thor Möger Pedersen, said that if SF was truly to be the party that best spoke for low-wage workers, they needed to turn bank directors, physicians, professors, lawyers and other professionals away from the party ranks.

The environmental minister, Ida Auken (SF), and the trade minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr (SF), gave an interview to Politiken newspaper on Sunday in which they disagreed with Pedersen and said that SF was not a special interest party and that they welcomed both professionals and workers.

Søvndal, Denmark's foreign minister, said that he found the whole debate confusing.

“I find it strange, to put it diplomatically, this whole debate about whether we should be a people’s party or a worker’s party. It is the strangest disagreement I have seen during my time in the party,” Søvndal told Politiken.

As party leader, Søvndal is feeling most of the heat for SF’s disarray. A recent Megafon poll conducted for Politiken and TV2 revealed that only two percent of the 1,000 people surveyed thought that he was the best of the three party leaders in the coalition government at representing his party’s interests.

The minister for the economy and interior, Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), was judged the best at representing her party’s views; 68 percent of those polled said she was doing a good job. The prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), received a 12 percent tally.

Among SF voters, just ten percent said they felt Søvndal has been able to impact governmental policy and was doing a good job representing the views expressed by SF prior to the election.

Overall, 39 percent of those polled thought that Søvndal would actually do his party the most good by stepping down. SF voters gave him a higher rating, with 44 percent saying that he is still the best person for the job of representing their interests.

For his part, Søvndal – who turns 60 on Wednesday – stressed that he is not going anywhere.

“I am 100 percent sure that when you’re in the midst of a storm, it’s best not to waver. You have to fight,” said Søvndal.