Berlingske Tidende toyed with the idea of making a Danish version of the POTUS rankings and asked a number of social scientists, historians and journalists to give their view of the Danish heads of government. First the list and the some comments:
- Thorvald Stauning, Social Democrat, 1924-1926 and 1929-1942: 7,94/10
- H.C. Hansen, Social Democrat, 1955-1960: 7,51/10
- Jens Otto Krag, Social Democrat, 1962-1968 and 1971-1972: 7,27/10
- Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Social Democrat, 1993-2001: 7,00/10
- Poul Schlüter, Conservative, 6,99, 1982-1993: 6,99/10
- Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Liberal, 2001-2009: 6,63/10
- C.Th. Zahle, Social Liberal, 1909-1910 and 1913-1920: 6,53/10
- Anker Jørgensen, Social Democrat, 1972-1973 and 1975-1982: 5,50/10
- J.B.S. Estrup, Right, 1875-1894, 4,31/10
Some disjointed comments:
The selection excludes PMs who served to less than five years and less than two terms.
This means that a giant of Danish politics, J.C. Christensen (1905-1908) – perhaps the only Danish politician who merits mention along Estrup and Stauning – is excluded, as are other pivotal figures – in cronological order, these are: A.W. Moltke (1848-1852) who oversaw the transition from sovereign rule to constitutional democracy, C.C. Hall (1857-1859 and 1860-1863) a leading National-Liberal in the run-up to the disastrous Second Schleswig war, C.E. Frijs-Frijsenborg (1865-1870) a Conservative who chaired the post-1864 restauration, J.C. Christensen, Erik Scavenius (don’t mention that he was a Social Liberal! 1943(-1945)) and Erik Eriksen (1950-1953) the Liberal leader who finally sealed the Liberal-Conservative alliance. On the other hand, lemons like Niels Neergaard (Liberal, 1908-1909 and 1920-1924, in many ways one of Denmark’s great statesmen in terms of policy but a hopeless leader), Th. Madsen-Mygdal (Liberal, 1926-1929), Knud Kristensen (Liberal, 1945-1947) and Hilmar Baunsgaard (Social Liberal, 1968-1971) don’t make it to the list, either.
The criteria given, “ability to cooperate”, “economic control”, “foreign policy Fingerspitzengefühl”, “personal charisma” and “ability to lead own party”, are somewhat opaque. We should recognise that a prime minister has to operate on a number of arenas both politically (international, parliamentary, electoral and organisational) as well as in terms of policy (foreign and economic policy are always important), but the operationalisations and criteria are a bit uncertain.
I would probably put H.C. Hansen lower on my list – I think there is a lot of 50s nostalgia about him going round – and Krag, Nyrup and Schlüter higher. The latter three were more inventive in terms of policies than Hansen as I see it. The jury is still out on Fogh Rasmussen – in many ways he had an easier term in office politically and economically than Schlüter. Maybe Schlüter is so far back in history now, that it is about time to make a general academic assessment of his life and times?
It would be interesting to see the variations in the judgements given by the experts – I could imagine the verdict on Stauning being relatively unanimous with less agreement on PMs like Estrup, Schlüter and Jørgensen.
Update: Jacob Brønnum Scavenius Estrup now has his surname.