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Lööf – Sjöstedt debate analysis

Lööf beats Sjöstedt in debate of missed opportunities

On Sunday the 12th of January Annie Lööf and Jonas Sjöstedt went head to head in an 8 minute debate on the privatization of the healthcare sector (“vinst i välfärden). Both leaders focused so much on their own words that they missed the opportunity to call the other one out on implied statements and false assumptions. Remember that a debate is as much about listening as it is about talking, if not more!

Although no knock-out was delivered we call Lööf as the winner of this debate by a narrow margin.

Missed opportunities
The debate focused on the question of allowing profit to be made by private companies in the healthcare sector. Sjöstedt starts the debate with a brief statement in which he claims that profit is bad for the state of the healthcare sector. He fails however to back this statement up with concrete evidence. Nor does he show a causal relation between the closing down of schools and hospitals and the fact that they are privately owned. In her first intervention Lööf fails to point this gap in his reasoning out, as she is completely focused on her own message and does not seem to react to what her opponent is saying.

But Sjöstedt also misses a great opportunity to attack Lööfs central theme. In her interventions Lööf keeps coming back to the issue of ‘quality’. This is a good strategy since it makes a clear distinction between Sjöstedts key point (“profit”) and hers (“quality”). Sjöstedt could however have neutralized Lööf by clearly stating that he is also for quality, perhaps even more than she is! And that it is exactly this quality factor that is under threat by the ongoing privatizations. He implies this at several points in his interventions but at no point does he make this relation explicitly clear and he loses himself in Lööfs examples and explanations.

Who wins?
We call this debate for Lööf. The reason is that she manages to stick to her core theme of quality and does not allow herself to be distracted. Her attack on Sjöstedt characterizing himself as a feminist is one he should have seen coming from miles away, since it has been used many times before. Yet his defence that the sectors are different is not convincing. In a debate a verbal slap needs to be met by a verbal knock out, not a half hearted push back. And finally the use of Monika as a reference person pushes this debate towards Lööf. The viewer can not help but sympathize with Monika as she becomes a person, while Sjöstedts remains abstract talking about name plates and uniforms.

Key lessons

* A debate is as much about listening as it is about talking.
* If your opponents logic does not add up, make use of the opening.
* If you only have 8 minutes don’t get stuck in the examples but show clear distinctions.
* Prepare yourself for the questions you know will come up.
* Make it concrete and let your audience ‘feel’ it.