For the first time in 18 years, Denmark has a prime minister whose name isn’t Rasmussen. Lars Løkke today takes his leave, and Denmark embraces Welsh disaster politics.
Victory for the centre-left in Denmark’s general election sets the country apart from the mass of EU member states. It amazes me how, in the midst of a global crisis of capitalism, the European left is incapable of more than counter-revolutionary opposition to military activities against despotic regimes abroad, and disrupting concerts by visiting Israeli orchestras at home. The right has screwed up the economy, and is rewarded with increased parliamentary majorities.
In Denmark, a liberal-conservative coalition has been in power for the past decade, and failed to do anything of note. During that time, the formerly hegemonic social democrats became so politically and culturally stale that they were in danger of being consigned to the wilderness for a generation or more. It therefore surprises me to see a left party with no economic policy to speak of win an election in which the poor state of economy was central to the public debate. The answer of the social democrats is, as always, to raise taxes and increase public spending.
To be fair, your average Danish voter has a more sophisticated take on matters of taxation and public service provision than is common in Britain. This is for a number of reasons, of which one might include the small size of the country, a relatively open media, and a tradition of substantial public discourse. There is also a degree of basic financial literacy unheard of on this side of the North Sea, with discussion of personal finances focusing on earnings net of tax, and spending power after social responsibilities are taken care of. Danish income tax may be higher than in the UK, but generally speaking the standard of living is higher also.
Were I still living in Denmark, I would cautiously welcome the victory of the centre-left, even though I am contemptuous of social democracy as a political ideology. As a non-Dane, I would not have been allowed to vote in the parliamentary poll, but in local and European elections I have in the past voted for the social liberals (Radikale Venstre). Social liberals are for reduced income tax, a simplified tax regime, more environmental and property taxes, decentralisation in government, a more flexible and creative education system, and a greater focus on individual liberty. They also sit on the fence rather a lot, and are prone to debilitating infighting. Social liberals will be part of the new coalition government.
And what of the Welsh connection? The new prime minister, (Gucci) Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is married to Stephen Kinnock, son of Neil – the Labour prime minister Britain mercifully never had – and Glenys. That is surely enough to seal the fate of the new administration in Copenhagen.
The reference above to Welsh “disaster” is unfortunate, given the tragedy unfolding today at the coal mine at Cilybebyll. No Chile-style miracle recovery in this case. Ironically, I first learned of the Welsh situation through sympathetic reporting in Denmark’s Politiken newspaper.