Politician Anders Adlercreutz invites voters to dinner – and there’s plenty to chew over.
A large dish of meatballs and tomato sauce sizzles on the stove as Anders Adlercreutz dips a spoon in to taste it. “It’s ready,” he says. “Now onto the pasta.” The second-term MP from the liberal Swedish People’s Party of Finland throws spaghetti into a saucepan of boiling water. Apologising that he needs to keep his phone on as the government is in the middle of important budget talks, he invites guests to take a seat at the table. It is not his home but he is very much the host of tonight’s dinner at the residence of the Einiö family in the Finnish city of Kirkkonummi. For the next three hours, the seven dinner guests ask Adlercreutz about politics, share their concerns and wishes, and get an inside view into the inner workings of the Finnish parliament, all while eating a meal prepared by the 52-year-old MP.
“When I entered politics, I didn’t find it fruitful just standing in front of a crowd and presenting my message,” says the politician. “I wanted interaction.”
This led Adlercreutz to launch what he calls kökspolitik or “kitchen politics”. People – potential voters, constituents, as well as critics – can invite him into their homes on the condition that they gather together six to 12 other participants. “It’s not a Q&A nor a campaign rally. It’s a way for me to learn what is on people’s minds while also making politics more approachable”, he says as he passes around a large chunk of parmesan.
It’s all done in a quintessentially Nordic way with no spin doctors or security, apart from Vili, the Danish-Swedish farm dog that keeps a watchful eye over proceedings. Glasses are filled with pinot noir and forks dig into the spaghetti. The first question is about the rise in energy costs and what the government plans to do about it. Adlercreutz listens attentively and then spells out different scenarios. He lists the pros and cons of measures such as lowering VAT and setting price caps, then gives his prediction on what the current coalition government, of which his own party is a member, might be able to agree on. Next, participants talk about the challenges of getting quality healthcare, climate change, taxes, education, the war in Ukraine and Finland’s relations with Russia. The host family’s 17-year-old son wants to know more about how politics work and asks whether there are simply too many parties in Finland (there are nine).
The conversation is lively and Adlercreutz gets his share of criticism even though the crowd of potential voters are likely to vote for one of Finland’s liberal parties, such as his. But there is something about the setting – sitting around the dinner table – that makes the event immune to the incendiary language that is all too common in today’s political discourse. As the evening draws to a close, the conversation gets rowdier and the subject shifts to Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin’s partying. Outside, the sun is setting over the autumnal Baltic Sea and candles are being lit.
It is the unlikeliest setting for a political gathering and the guests appreciate the unfiltered access that they are given to the MP. “Politics has always felt remote to me, something that I read about in the papers,” one of the guests tells MONOCLE. “Tonight, I understood that politicians are ordinary people who I can approach.” Perhaps Adlercreutz has found the perfect recipe for success.