In political science, we talk about position issues and valence issues. What position issues are, ought to be obvious (if not: this is about which positions candidates or parties take on particular issues like immigration, taxation, economic policy and so on). Valence issues are about the character of a candidate or a party: Is he/she/it competent, trustworthy and so on.
So stories about Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s tax payments or Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s partying are about valence issues. Now, valence issues can be very relevant to voters (would you like to have a prime minister with severe bipolar disorder?) but they can also reflect rather meaningless moralising (should we care if a politician has a mistress and children out of wedlock?). In both Thorning-Schmidt’s and Løkke Rasmussen’s case, the stories we are being fed bring very little new information to light but they do divert attention from debates over position issues.
The Thorning-Schmidt story also raises another issue. When the Social Democrats stole the government’s plans to ease taxes on home-owners just before the election was called, the suspicion was that somebody in the Finance Ministry had leaked the plans (hopefully in the expectation that the different plans would backfire). In Thorning-Schmidt’s case the question is who inside the Tax Authority is providing BT with information about individual tax records and why.
Also: Apologies but I didn’t get to watch “The Duel” last night. I have it recorded and maybe … or maybe not.