- Out – Hans Christian Schmidt (Food, Agriculture and Fisheries; Lib), Flemming Hansen (Transport; Cons)
- Transferred – Eva Kjer Hansen (From Social Affairs to FAF; Lib)
- In – Jacob Axel Nielsen (Transport; Cons), Karen Jespersen (Social Affairs; Lib)
That Flemming Hansen is replaced is a no-brainer: He is 68 and had announced that he would step down as an MP at the next election. He is the longest-serving Minister for Transport since – well, forever. Axel Nielsen is an up-and-coming Conservative: He is relatively new in national politics but described as a political talent.
Schmidt will be made chairman of the Liberal parliamentary group. It could be seen as a degradation, but not of the humiliating kind. Moving Kjer Hansen from Social Affairs to Food and Agriculture is a sideways shuffle – the portfolio is important to traditional Liberal voters, less so to new Liberal voters.
That leaves Karen Jespersen. We should note that she is the first Danish politician since Gustav Rasmussen to serve in governments of different colour. Unlike Jespersen who is a professional politician, Rasmussen was a career diplomat who served as Foreign Minister, first under the Liberal Knud Kristensen from 1945 to 1947 and then under the Social Democrat Hans Hedtoft from 1947 to 1950. In Rasmussen’s case, the switch was not politically motivated – Rasmussen lacked a sense for party politics and the Social Democrats in 1947 lacked politicians with experience from international politics.
The best Swedish match to Jespersen would be Carl Tham who was originally a Liberal but switched to the Social Democrats in the mid-1980s. Tham was party secretary from 1969 to 1975 and then a minister in the Liberal government from 1978-1979. After switching to the Social Democrats, he became Minister for Education between 1994 and 1998. (Note the ten-year quarantine in Tham’s case)
On the other hand I think it is fair to say that Tham never was as well known to the general public as Jespersen who in a journalistic and political career spanning 35 years has made a fascinating and high-profiled journey – always in tune with the times – from radical socialism over social democracy to a peculiar brand of neo-conservatism.
It is possible to say much more about Jespersen. I may get back to that.
Bonus information: The last reshuffle of this kind was made in August 2004. About six months before the 2005 election.
Press release from the PM’s Office.
Update: I would just like to note that Lars Bille confirmed my suspicions – Karen Jespersen is a unique case in Danish politics. No Danish politician with the exceptions of Rasmussen and Jespersen has ever changed sides and held government office for different parties.