Given the present malaise on the left wing in Danish politics, the journal Ræson asked a number of political commentators and journalists about the chances for some hypothetical parties.
The parties were:
The Social Democrats II (or should we say: The Social Democrats Redux?) which would stay close to the Social Democratic programme – rather than the policies led by the real existing Social Democracy.
The Respect Party which would stand for the interests of public employees and those hit by cuts in social benefits.
The Openness Party which would stand for greater transparency in lawmaking and public administration
The Periphery Party which would stand for the structurally weak parts of Denmark where the development in employment and growth in the private sector is slow if not outright negative.
One general comment could be that much of problems facing the present government and the Social Democrats and SF in particular stems from the fact that the government is seen as a – in purely political terms not very effective – retrenchment government rather than a social reform government. The government’s initiatives on immigration and issues like gay marriage count for very little electorally: They are irrelevant for the creation of a progressive socio-economic image.
If we look at the proposed parties in cleavage terms, SRII would appeal to (private sector) workers, RP to public employees and those on benefits, OP is tricky as it doesn’t really fit in an electoral cleavage while PP obviously fits in the centre-periphery cleavage.
But what about their chances? As it is, Sweden and German have had their OPs in the form of Pirate Parties but this was also linked with a clash between parts of the youth culture and attempts by the entertainment industry and governments to control the use of the internet. However, both Sweden and Germany have a different history with regard to governmental controls of communication and the integration of the internet in the youth culture so in contrast to Denmark the issue has been politicised in these two countries. There may also be a generational element to this with parts of the younger generation feeling that they have been left out by the developments on the labour markets and the economy in general.
A mainstreamed Red-Green Alliance could easily pick up on this – in Denmark the controversies over the revision of the Freedom of Information Act could motivate more young urban people to support the Red-Greens with the Social Liberals as losers.
The PP is a more complicated story: We know that the centre-periphery cleavage has been incredibly important in the Nordic countries historically, albeit in the basis that agriculture did play a very large role economically and socially in all four countries. These days, the Danish People’s Party appear to be making a large effort to attract traditionally Social Democratic and Liberal voters in the peripheral parts of Denmark – even if we may discuss the partys efficacy in actually promoting peripheral areas. But this is where I would put my money, not on a new party.
We can also see that DF is making inroads in some parts of the “Respect Party’s” electorate – while Kristian Thulesen Dahl was seen as a less charismatic figure than Pia Kjærsgaard, he may also appear as less divisive and in this way find it easier to attract blue-collar workers and people on public benefits and some sections of the publicly employed.
Finally, the Social Democrats Redux. There can be no doubt that the Social Democrats face massive challenges in mobilising their existing and potential voters. In a way, Villy Søvndal’s project was to create a SDR but he failed, in part because of different party organisations and party cultures. Again, the DF is doing an impressive job in promoting a social protection-agenda and attracting blue-collar voters – even if the real results of the party’s parliamentary strategy do point in a different direction.
So, perhaps we are left with the impression that while Denmark has a progessive wing on some social issues – to use US terminology -, the socio-economic progressive wing is withering as an economic technocracy has taken over.
I took a trip to Svendborg on Saturday because the poet Søren Ulrik Thomsen performed with the septet “Det Glemte Kvarter” (The Forgotten Neighbourhood) – named after one of his early poems. Thomsen has been set to music before – Lars H.U.G’s “City Slang” is a modern classic – but Det Glemte Kvarter’s style is very different from H.U.G’s frenetic techno-rock. The performance Saturday was quite an intense affair and the clip above only shows one dimension of what we who were lucky to be in the audience saw and heard during the evening.
Oh, and a big thank you to Esma – aka @adlaramse on Twitter – who inadvertently made me aware of the performance.
Note: For some reason the embedding of YouTube videos is acting up so you will have to follow the links.