As I read it during the week-end, here are some short notes on Niels Krause-Kjær’s biography of Lars Løkke Rasmussen:
The book is mostly a journalistic biography using template 1A. It is easily read, but on the other hand the tendency to use casual spoken language in a written text occasionally annoys me. There aren’t any revelations in the stricter (media) sense, but it is a very useful summary of Løkke’s twenty-year career in Danish politics. A number of observations still stand out and – at least in my opinion – could merit some attention, also by PolSci types.
So: What did we learn and what might merit some further discussion?
1. For a Danish top-level politician, Løkke has stayed unusually close to his (geographical) roots which are the village of Græsted in Northern Zeeland. He never really went through the socialisation, moving to Copenhagen or Århus meant for Poul Nyrup Rasmussen or Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Somehow, Anker Jørgensen comes up as a parallel, and even he moved from Christianshavn to Sydhavnen.
2. As Krause-Kjær also points out, Løkke’s background in local and regional politics is highly unusual despite all talk of local politics being the entry to a political career. The high-flyers go directly for the national arena, one way or the other.
3. For a long time, Løkke looked like the heir presumptive in the Liberal Party to most people, but Krause-Kjær argues that Løkke through his youth and much of his early years had a tendency to live on the edge in career terms. Does this also apply to his approach to politics and policy decision-making?
4. Kause-Kjær also implies that Løkke will be happy basing his government on the Danish People’s Party. As long as we have a VKO majority, a continued polarisation between the left and the right blocs looks likely. How important is his socialisation in internal party politics and local politics in this aspect?
5. Løkke has a degree in law but has never practised as a lawyer. In fact, the biography makes no mention of how having an academic education has influenced Løkke’s way of working or thinking. When I read Anne Sofie Kragh’s biography of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, I noted that the same applied to him. Which begs the question: These days most top-level politicians have an academic degree, but does having a degree in higher education play a role in practice? Is it mostly a training in managing and presenting a large amount of information (in itself very useful), does it have some substantial impact or is it in fact irrelevant?
6. Kause also points out that Løkke’s personal network is based on party contacts. PolSci people have for a long noted that traditional party organisations were being replaced by smaller, more professional ones, but Løkke has made much of his career in the town halls in meetings with local party activists. Did we underestimate the role of party organisations (we are talking the 90s and the 00s here) or was this another indication of Løkke living dangerously?
Finally, Krause doesn’t compare Løkke with any of his predecessors (needless to say, Kraus notes how Løkke is different from his immediate predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen), but I would offer Erik Eriksen as the most likely parallel. Unlike Løkke, Eriksen never appeared as the obvious leader of the Liberal Party – until he seized the day. Similarly, Eriksen became prime minister by seizing the day. For an immediate observation, Løkke was biding his time, but as Krause notes at several occasions, Løkke also knew, and knows, how do identify his moment of opportunity.
And to quote (from memory) what Søren Mørch wrote about Erik Eriksen: He was a friendly man which often misled others to believe that he was their friend.
The advice “If you want a friend in politics, get a dog” still stands.
Niels Krause-Kjær: Lars Løkke – et portræt af Danmarks statsminister. Jyllands-Postens Forlag, 2009.
Update: Anne Sofie Kragh’s name corrected. Apologies.