On the same day polls showed one in three Norwegians’ trust in the Prime Minister is eroded following the 22 July Commission’s report, newspaper VG called for his resignation. Jens Stoltenberg’s parliamentary political compatriots tell The Foreigner they still support him.
“It’s clear that Jens Stoltenberg should carry on being the Prime Minister, his resignation is not an alternative,” Jenny Klinge MP, the Centre Party’s (SV) justice policy spokesperson, said to The Foreigner.
“He has the Party’s full confidence. This confidence is based on how he handled the crisis in the acute and ensuing phases, as well as his following up the advice of the Commission. Suggesting top leaders go when something happens is wrong,” she added.
But 22 July was the worst event in Norwegian history since 1945, it is not purely about ‘something wrong’, a small matter.
“Having a leader that has been there in a crisis is not a disadvantage. They can learn from it, bring their experience, and take the country on. What has happened must be taken seriously and account of. Grubbegata has to be secured now and we have to accept self-criticism,” she declared.
Alexandra Bech Gjørv at today's presentation
©2012 Sarah Pettersen/The ForeignerThe Commission's report states that the “bombing of the Government offices in Grubbegata could have been avoided.”
As early as June 2004, the Office of the Prime Minster and the Ministry of Justice were provided with images from a data-stimulation. These showed what damage that a car bomb parked on Grubbegata could do.
The images are poignant, as Alexandra Bech Gjørv said at the Commission press conference on Monday, “as this is exactly what happened” on 22 July 2011.
At the joint Prime Minister-Minister of Justice press conference later in the day, Jens Stoltenberg said, “We were too unaware of the risks [of terror].”
The Commission was extremely detailed in its report, specifically of the non-closure of Grubbegata. The ten-strong panel looked into past meetings and information exchanges that took place from 2004 to outline the catalogue of errors made at high-level government.
According to the document, in 2007, the then Minister of Government Administration and Reform, Heidi Grande Røys personally advised the Office of the Prime Minster about security, specifically on Grubbegata.
Røys gave a report with images to Prime Minister Stoltenberg on 29 August the same year. It made essential recommendations regarding the consequences of an explosion in the Grubbegata area, saying an explosion at H-block, R5, S-block, and U-block would have catastrophic consequences.
Furthermore, a security analysis had already been conducted before Stoltenberg assumed office in 2005. It too described the impact a 1,000-kilo car bomb could have on Government Offices if parked on Grubbegata.
The simulation showed that R-4, G-block and Y block, which face out towards Grubbegata, would have been severely damaged and glass would have been blown in.
“This suggests that an unknown number of personnel would be injured...Those who are in the office that is positioned nearest the place of explosion will be subject to high pressure that can infer life-threatening internal injuries”.
Data stimulation of 1,000 kilo car bomb
Norway 22 July CommissionIn its report, the Commission details the description of the security analysis as being, “frighteningly like the injuries [sustained by those in the Government offices] on 22 July.” Grubbegata was still open on then, four years following Heidi Grande Røys’ report.
A need for change
At the opening of the report presentation press conference, Monday, the 22 July Commission described the "lack of leadership” being pertinent to examples in the security report.
The lack of leadership on the closure of Grubbegata and responsibility of one Office to maintain that this be done was lost in a bureaucracy, nonetheless. The paper trail continued and disappeared in more confusion.
According to the Commission, in error, “...a civil service member archived the letter from the Police Department (in 2009)…and no more happened to ensure the closure of Grubbegata”.
It was recommended that there “is also a need for a change in the division of work in the community of ministries. Furthermore, that the Committee has considered recommending that the coordination of security and emergency tasks be assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister, in order to put sufficient power behind the task, as in the model in Great Britain.”
The Foreigner contacted the Office of the Prime Minister in London’s Downing Street, for comment.
A spokesperson confirmed that, “The Prime Minister has overall responsibility and the Home Secretary has the day to day responsibility”. The individual declined to remark about Norwegian national defence.
Despite the sparseness of the comments, the Downing Street spokesperson did confirm, however, that the [UK] Prime Minister "chairs and leads meetings at COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room)."
The British Government has experienced acts of terror on home soil. The 7 July 2005 attacks – sometimes referred to as 7/7 – were a series of assaults that happened in London’s morning rush hour.
Terrorists detonated four bombs: three on the underground and one on a bus. An independent coroner’s inquest was set up in October 2010, and nine recommendations were issued.
There was no mention of leadership failures, but advice was given regarding major incident training for all front-line staff. Norway’s 22 July Commission refers to COBR meetings in their report.
Since the terror attacks on 22 July 2011, the Norwegian government has been working to improve and learn on matters of national security. Minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs, Rigmor Aasrud was in Great Britain in October last year, to acquire knowledge about British anti-terror measures.
Map of the Government Offices and surrounding area
Norway 22 July CommissionCommenting on the fact Breivik was able to drive the bomb-loaded van so close to government headquarters, Lord Alexander Carlile of Berriew told NRK at the time, “It would never have been possible for a large, unidentified van to park right outside government buildings or the Houses of Parliament here. Nobody can stop anywhere near government buildings in London apart for at traffic lights.”
Lord Calile commented that closing Grubbegata completely would be an unwise move, however.
“It’s completely impossible to shut off an entire area. It will paralyse an entire part of the city and create major through-flow problems for traffic,” he said.
Advocating automatic number plate recognition, for example, he continued, “In this way, one can discover if anybody in the area poses a known threat. Nevertheless, you can only do so much to secure yourself, after which you can only hope that the measures are adequate in preventing any attempted terrorist attacks.”
Meanwhile, Jens Stoltenberg stated on Monday that, “I am in the highest position of responsibility and I am therefore responsible for what happened on 22 July.” He apologised for the lack of adequate safeguards prior to Breivik’s attacks, and that the perpetrator was not apprehended earlier.
More than two in three Norwegians want him to continue as Prime Minister. He has declared several times that he will not resign.
“Now it is my responsibility that improvements are made,” he told reporters at the press conference.
Frank Aarebrot, professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen, told The Foreigner he believes it unlikely that Stoltenberg will step down.
“According to the Norwegian constitution, the entire Cabinet will have to resign if the PM does. The Soria Moria II tri-Party declaration binds the three Parties together for the four-year governmental term.”
What would happen if he did resign, though?
Results from data stimulation of 22/7 explosion
Norway 22 July Commission“Labour (Ap), the Socialist Left (SV), and the Centre Party (Sp) would have to renegotiate if they were to continue cooperating.”
“There are three options:
1. All three Parties will renegotiate a new government.
2. SV and Sp could prefer to go to the Opposition, which SV might be tempted to do this given its current position in the Gallup polls. There would then be a minority government for the rest of the period.
3. The present tri-partite Coalition could continue with a caretaker government with a leader probably from Labour.”
SV would not comment on the issue when asked. Sp’s Jenny Klinge stated, “It’s completely unlikely Sp will seek towards the Opposition. Stoltenberg should stay.”
Nonetheless, Jens Stoltenberg wanted an “open and honest report not a tainted one", and received it. He will now face questions in parliament about the Commission’s findings at an extraordinary session convened during the summer recess. The date of this is not yet known.
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