Just one idea which grew out of a comment on Jarl Cordua’s Facebook-wall:
We don’t know how the present leadership crisis in the Liberal Party will end but the recurrent undermining of the credibility of Lars Løkke Rasmussen has a familiar ring to it – in 1992 the Social Democrats lost their chairman after a prolonged internal and external campaign against Svend Auken, ending in an open challenge.
The Auken crisis had two sides: One which had to do with Auken’s personality and one which had to do with the policies of the Social Democrats. In the dominant narrative, the first side has prevailed but we might want to remember the other side.
Auken became party chairman in 1987 following the usual succession order in the party – he was Anker Jørgensen’s chosen candidate. The early part of his term yielded wins and losses – the 1987 agreement over the 1988 state budget was a clear win, the 1988 “submarine” election a clear loss. In 1990, Auken came as close to the Prime Minister’s office as he would ever do – a socialist majority in the electorate failed to result in a parliamentary majority as the newly formed Red Green Alliance missed the 2% threshold.
From that point on, things began to go seriously wrong for Auken. Stories about his lack of reliability in parliamentary negotiations began to make the round coupled with criticism of lack of internal leadership. Finally, the Social Liberals made it clear that they would not support a Social Democratic-led government under Auken. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a bizarre housing scandal caused by the then chairman of the parliamentary group, Ritt Bjerregaard. Without someone to control the daily business of the group, Auken was drifting politically and organisationally and vulnerable to a coup which came from the party organisation.
The thing to note is that Auken in fact was relatively successful in 1992 while his weaknesses as a political leader were also well-known. The question was if they were substantial enough to bring about his downfall. As it turned out, they did.
Now look at Lars Løkke Rasmussen: He also came into office uncontested – not, perhaps, as Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s preferred successor, but rather out of inevitability. During his term in office, he could point to a number of important agreements in the economic policy arena. And his weaknesses as a leader and his propensity to overspend on personal expenses and lack of understanding of the border separating the public and the personal were well-known. In 2011, he only narrowly missed reelection as prime minister – but since then the Liberal Party has appeared to be drifting, perhaps because the party leadership expected it to cruise to victory in the coming general election.
Then the skeletons began to fall out of all cupboards: The prestigious post as chairman of 3GI, a Korean-based NGO, came back to haunt him as stories of overspending began to leak in the run-up to the local elections. And now stories of overspending in his capacity as Liberal chairman have been leaking, adding to the factors which led to Liberal losses in the European Parliament election.
Unlike Auken in 1992, Løkke i 2014 still has a formidable staff at his disposal. Hatchet man Claus Hjort Frederiksen appears to be hard at work securing support for the embattled chairman while the party actually has taken some action to get the chairman’s expenses under control. The strange fact is that the party has failed to relay this to the public – perhaps because too much publicity would be an acknowledgement of the chairman’s weaknesses. Another factor pointing in Løkke’s favour is the lack of a clear challenger – but then again it took a long time before Poul Nyrup Rasmussen appeared as a credible challenger to Svend Auken. Finally, the Danish People’s Party has not yet declared Løkke unfit for office – but the party has begun challenging some of Løkke’s proposed economic policies.