As the climax to an otherwise uninspiring campaign to the European Parliament elections (and the European Patent Court referendum) we had the return of an old and familiar subject which is completely unrelated to either: The inability of the chairman of the Liberal Party and former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen to a) find a reasonable level of expenditure related to his public duties and b) separate his public functions from his personal economy.
All in all, this doesn’t tell us anything new about Løkke: These stories have been with us since his days as leader of the Liberal Youth organisation and – to a wider public – county mayor of Frederiksborg County.
But first of all, we can say that political scandals in Denmark continue to be about money rather than sex. It is just that this time bespoke suits, boxer shorts and bills for the cleaning of hotel rooms have entered the equation.
Second, the stories may not tell us much about Løkke’s abilities to perform as a political leader: His moodyness and often exasperating lack of a clear strategy seem more relevant here.
Still, the symbolic elements are important. The Liberals want to lead the campaign for the (expected) 2015 election on an austerity platform which leaves absolutely no room for the improvement of working conditions for public employees and the prospect of extremely tight budgets at all levels in the public sector. This fits badly with a “no limits” approach to expenses when it comes to the highest echelons of the political class itself – and it will not help politicians who face declining levels of trust – even if it fits nicely with the bossism endemic to modern management culture in general and New Public Management in particular.