Perhaps I should make one thing clear: Sex scandals do not bring down Danish politicians. As long as it’s legal, you are free to go. Sleeping with a 15-year-old member of the youth organisation may bring you in a slightly awkward situation but will not damage your career.
Alcohol is a different matter: I’ve lost count of the number of local and national politicians who have taken “time out” or resigned after being caught drink-driving during recent years. Given the Danes’ somewhat problematic drinking habits, this may or may not be surprising.
Sending your child to a private school is tricky, especially for Social Democrats who are supposed to support the public school system as a tool for social integration. Actually, given the level of housing segregation in Denmark, it is slightly surprising that the choice of school gets more attention than the choice of housing. But then again, Mette Frederiksen has never been known as being particularly quiet or subtle so she should have expected that she would have it coming at some point.
But the issue of schools and housing points to the fact that most Danish politicians whatever their party belong to the professional (slightly higher) middle classes. Their behaviour fits with the lifestyle of some 10-20 percent of the population but is more or less at odds with that of the majority of voters.
The Stephen Kinnock case can be seen as an extreme case of this professional middle class versus Ms. and Mr. Denmark cleavage. Mr. Kinnock – just in case you didn’t know – is more relevant to us as Mr. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the husband of the leader of the Danish Social Democrats, and the two met when both attended the College of Europe in Bruges, one of the breeding grounds of the Euro-elite. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt made her career in the Euro-political sphere before entering Danish national politics, Mr. Kinnock his in the British Council and now in that most Social Democratic of places, the World Economic Forum.
Yep, the one in Davos, Switzerland. With the banks. And the bank accounts. And the place for the tax-dodgers of the world. (Actually, the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands are the places to watch but never mind: Switzerland has a brand issue here).
So an advisor worth his or her money would have pointed out that Mr. and Ms. Thorning-Schmidt might want to consider in advance that the information that Mr. Thorning-Schmidt pays his taxes in Switzerland while the family home is registered in the name of Ms. Thorning-Schmidt (thereby giving a full mortgage deduction) would make the news at some point.
Are they doing anything illegal? In all likelihood not. (Though mind you, I’m not a tax expert and I know from personal experience that having income from more than one country or working in one country and living in another can, no: will, make your economic life … complicated.)
Does the arrangement look like the Thorning-Schmidts are taking advantage of tax rules … well … of course, you would never consider making similar arrangements, would you?
Will Thorning-Schmidt and the Social Democrats be hit by the story? The actual damage may be much smaller than some hope. After all, the Conservatives look set for a summer of hate and the Liberals will be busy stopping the hemorrage of voters.