bookmark_borderNordic Horizons

noctilucent clouds
Originally uploaded by kanelstrand

The newspapers have recently been full of stories about how an independent Scotland will try to move closer to Scandinavia.

I think it started with this article in The Independent, which was their mostly commented article for days.

Then a journalist called Lesley Riddoch wrote this article in The Guardian, saying many of the same things but also drawing attention to her think tank and Facebook group, Nordic Horizons.

A few days later, the story appeared in Danish and Norwegian newspapers.

As a consequence of this, the Facebook group I mentioned above has grown considerably, so now a meeting has been arranged for the 19th of January in the Counting House. Will I see you there?

bookmark_borderThe Danish-Scottish Christmas party

I joined the Danish-Scottish Society shortly after moving to Scotland, but I was not a very active member due to the fact that almost all events took place in Edinburgh (which seems to have a much bigger Danish community than Glasgow). For a couple of years, some people tried to arrange events in Glasgow, but they didn’t typically attract more than ten participants, so eventually I let my membership lapse.

However, these days I’m living with three bilingual children who really could use an opportunity to hear other people speak Danish and learn more about Danish culture, so we recently joined again as a family.

The first event we went to was their Christmas party (in Edinburgh). It was really good fun for the kids. There were at least a hundred people there, including lots of kids, and they were selling glögg, æbleskiver and pebernødder. Towards the end, we all danced around the Christmas tree, singing Danish and English Christmas songs, and afterwards somebody read the kids a Christmas story, and then Santa arrived, bringing presents for all the children.

We then had to leave, but on our way out, each kid got a large bag of sweet, so they were well chuffed!

It’s just a shame it takes an hour and a half to get to Edinburgh – the kids really thought it was a long trip, If only there were enough people in the Glasgow area to arrange similar events for Danish-Scottish families here…

bookmark_borderDenmark’s fat tax

Originally uploaded by tellumo

Today Denmark introduced a tax on fat. Technically speaking, this is a levy of 16 Danish crowns (£1.87) per kilo of saturated fat.

Gauging from the Guardian’s article, reactions abroad are not uniformly negative. However, I think it’s a horrible idea.

First of all, not everybody is trying to avoid fat – lots of people are underweight, and some of us swear to Atkins when we want to lose weight – and why exactly should thin people and people on diets be punished by the tax system? Also, young kids are generally advised to avoid low-fat products (at least in the UK).

Secondly, the fat tax is too hard to apply, so to a large extent it will just make all products more expensive. For instance, here is part of a Danish article in my translation:

[…] A number of bakers in the North of Jutland have decided to distribute the fat tax on all products, including the low-fat ones. This means that the price of for instance a cream cake does not increase as much as the fat tax would otherwise have intended that they should.

“If we only raise the price of cream cakes, sales of them will grind to a halt. Therefore, we’ve chosen to spread the tax on all products,” says Preben Ramskov from Hjellerup Bakery.

The fact that the baker and the butcher can decide that the price of fatty foods should not rise as much as intended by the fat tax is confirmed by Tor Christensen from the Danish HMRC.

“They’re allowed to do that. They pay the fat tax on the goods they buy, but we do not interfere in how they distribute the price increase on the goods in the store,” says Tor Christensen. […]

I totally understand that it would be too hard to require a baker or a butcher to calculate the exact fat contents of every single product in store, but if a tax is impossible to apply justly, it should be abolished. Alas, the new Danish government appears to be in favour of this stupid tax, so I guess it’s unlikely it’ll be abolished any time soon. I just hope it won’t spread to Scotland!

bookmark_borderDyremose og Schlüter om Thorning-Schmidt

Poul Schlüter
Originally uploaded by Louis Carlsson 2D

Deadline på DR2 har et virkeligt interessant interview med tidligere finansminister Henning Dyremose på deres hjemmeside. Jeg har desværre ikke været i stand til at finde en udskrift af programmet, og det bliver vist slettet efter 30 dage, men her er de vigtigste synspunkter (i min transskription):

Det, [Helle Thorning-Schmidt] skal, er at skabe en situation, hvor SF vinder, hvor De Radikale vinder, og hvor hun kan være ligeglad med Socialdemokraterne. […] Socialdemokraterne er så begejstede for, at hun bliver statsminister, at hun ikke behøver at give sit folketingsgruppe og sit bagland nogen som helst form for indrømmelser. […] Hvis hun kan lave en pakke, hvor SF og Radikale samtidig er glade, så véd hun, at Socialdemokraterne også bliver glade. […] Hvis SF, som er blevet svækket, også bliver svækket i forhandlingerne om regeringsgrundlaget, så begynder SF’s bagland at sige, at den pris, vi betaler for at holde Helle Thorning-Schmidt i Statsministeriet, er den ikke for høj? […] Hvis ikke Vestager får tilstrækkeligt med indrømmelser […], kunne hun lige så godt stå uden for en regering. […] Det radikale Venstre ville få mere indflydelse [..], hvis de valgte at stå uden for regeringen. […] Det er derfor, de bliver dyre at få med ind i en regering.

Lignende tanker fremgår af et interview med Poul Schlüter himself i BT:

Evnen til at kunne mægle mellem partierne – og samtidig hele tiden være parat til selv at tage ’tævene’ og lade andre få æren for de kompromiser, der nødvendigvis må blive indgået – var en stor del af Schlüters opskrift på at bevare magten.

– Jeg tror ikke, [Helle Thorning-Schmidt] helt fra begyndelsen vil være meget for at gå imod den politik, hun er gået til valg på. Men det bliver hun nødt til at gøre ret hurtigt. Ellers bliver det meget svært. Næsten uoverkommeligt.

Hverken Dyremose eller Schlüter nævner Enhedslisten direkte, men der skal jo også tages hensyn til dem på samme måde som til SF.

Som jeg har nævnt tidligere, forekommer det mig, at Thorning-Schmidt har fået en meget stor del af sin politiske træning i Storbritannien, hvor der ingen tradition for koalitionsregeringer var før maj 2010, og jeg er ikke sikker på, at hun har forstået dette. I det omfang, hun er udlært inden for dansk politik, er det nok snarere Anders Fogh Rasmussen end Poul Schlüter, som hun kender og er tilbøjelig til at kopiere, men den politiske situation nu minder nok en del mere om 1980erne end om Fogh-årene.

Det bliver yderst interessant at se, om hun følger Dyremoses råd, eller om hun skræmmer Det radikale Venstre væk, så de skal forhandles med fra sag til sag, og samtidig tromler hen over SF på samme måde, som Fogh behandlede de Konservative.

bookmark_borderA brief explanation of the Danish general election result

The British media seem to have commented widely on the Danish general election which took place on the 15th of September 2011, but they seem mainly to have been concerned with the fact that the leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is Neil Kinnock’s daughter-in-law, and they have been wondering why her surname isn’t Rasmussen like all other prime ministers for the past 18 years.

However, there are some real points of interest that I think are worth highlighting.

First a little bit of history: Denmark has generally had many (8-10) parties represented in parliament at any one time, and most governments have therefore been minority coalitions. For instance, from 1982 to 1993 Poul Schlüter led a series of centre-right governments consisting of the Conservatives, the Liberals and one or two centre parties; from 1993 to 2001, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen led a series of centre-left governments consisting of the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals and sometimes of a few more centre parties; and from 2001 to 2009, Anders Fogh Rasmussen led a right-wing government consisting of the Liberals and the Conservatives. However, whereas the governments in the 1980s and 1990s tended to make deals with various parties, Anders Fogh (and his successor, Lars Løkke Rasmussen) almost exclusively ruled with the support of the far-right Danish People’s Party. (It would be a bit as if the UK had been ruled by a Con-Lib coalition in the 80s, by a Lab-Lib coalition in the 90s, and by a Conservative government dependent on UKIP votes after 2001.)

The fact that there were so few deals made across the political centre meant that the left-wing parties and the Social Liberals started to be seen as one monolithic construct, the so-called “red block”. Within this, the Social Democrats and the Socialists were from 2007 to 2011 far bigger than the Post-Communists and the Social Liberals (45 and 23 seats compared to 9 and 4), so they decided to make a joint manifesto and tell the others they’d just have to support it.

This angered the Social Liberals, and a few months ago they made a hugely important deal with the government about raising the retirement age, in direct opposition to the red-block manifesto. This was hugely popular with the voters, who also seemed to dislike the way the Socialists were adopting all of the Social Democrats’ ideas in their quest for power: The Social Liberals went from 9 to 17 seats, the Post-Communists from 4 to 12, while the Social Democrats dropped from 45 to 44 (their worst result for a century!) and the Socialists from 23 to 16. Adding on the three left-of-centre MPs from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, that makes for a majority, albeit a slender one. On the right-hand side, the Liberals had a good election, going from 46 to 47, while the Conservatives fell from 18 to 8, the Danish People’s Party went from 25 to 23, and the Liberal Alliance went up from 5 to 9.

So the political situation is that the prime minister had a good election but had to resign, while the leader of the opposition had a bad election but will become prime minister.

However, the idea that the red-block manifesto can be enacted is now dead. It is not yet clear whether the next government will consist of just the Social Democrats and the Socialists, or whether they will include the Social Liberals in the government, but it’s very clear that there are many ideas in the manifesto that the Social Liberals and the Post-Communists won’t accept. For a start, the retirement-age reform will stand as the parties behind it (the Social Liberals, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the DPP) still have a majority, which completes undermines the Social Democrats’ big idea of the election campaign, which was increasing working hours by 12 minutes a day.

The Social Democrats can of course try to govern with other parties, but there aren’t many constellations that can be relied on most of the time.

It’s probably most likely that the government won’t last very long, and that there will be a new election sooner rather than later.

bookmark_borderDen politiske situation nu er ikke et spejlbillede af 2001

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen
Originally uploaded by ~ Magne

På valgaftenen spurgte en journalist Enhedslistens Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, om hun var den nye Pia Kjærsgaard, og jeg tror, mange formodede, Danmark nu får en regering, der er lige så venstreorienteret, som Anders Foghs var højreorienterede.

Men situationen nu er slet ikke den samme som i 2001, blot med modsat fortegn. Det foreløbige resultat fra valget i går er: EL 12, SF 16, S 44, DrV 17, LA 9, K 8, V 47, DF 22, og hvis man spejlvender resultatet fra 2001, bliver det: EL 22, SF 16, S 56, DrV 4, LA 9, K 12, V 52, DF 4.

Med andre ord er EL + S + SF meget langt fra at have flertal. Der skal bruges stemmer fra DrV eller andre partier til højre, og det vil i høj grad begrænse Enhedslistens indflydelse.

I 2001 havde V+K flertal alene med DF, og der var intet flertal alene med DrV og KrF (der var en flertalsmulighed med SF, men den blev ikke brugt ofte). Man kan altså godt argumentere for, at Fogh var tvunget til et tæt samarbejde med DF, og at han blot gjorde en dyd af nødvendighed.

Situationen nu er meget anderledes. Der er mange interessante flertalsmuligheder, men de kræver gode forhandlingsevner. Jeg kan godt være bekymret for, om Helle Thorning-Schmidt er den bedst egnede til denne opgave – i opposition specialiserede hun sig i at lave forslag alene med SF og ignorere EL og DrV.

Hvem véd – måske viser hun sig at være en ny Schlüter, men hvis ikke, skal danskerne nok snart til stemmeurnerne igen.

bookmark_borderMidterpartiernes sejr

Det radikale Venstre og Liberal Alliance fik ved dette valg tilsammen 26 mandater. Det er dobbelt så mange, som midterpartierne fik i 2001 (se de lilla områder til højre).

Naturligvis var valget i dag også en sejr for Enhedslisten, men det var reelt nok bare en masse SF’ere, der var blevet trætte af Villys ministerdrømme: S + SF + EL fik 72 mandater, præcist det samme som i 2007.

Dansk Folkeparti holdt stort set skansen, så den store ændring ved dette valg har reelt været en vandring fra K til DrV og LA.

Det bliver interessant at se, hvordan det nye folketing kommer til at fungere. Uanset om DrV kommer med i regeringen eller ej, vil den enten skulle finde støtte fra EL eller fra et eller flere partier til højre side.

Hvis vi antager, at de nordatlantiske mandater fordeler sig som tre til S og ét til V, er der flg. flertalsmuligheder:

  • V/A
  • V/O/B/F
  • V/O/B/Ø
  • V/O/B/I
  • V/O/B/C
  • V/O/F/Ø
  • V/O/F/I
  • V/O/F/C
  • V/O/Ø/I
  • V/O/Ø/C
  • V/B/F/Ø
  • V/B/F/I
  • V/B/Ø/I/C
  • V/F/Ø/I/C
  • A/O/B/F
  • A/O/B/Ø
  • A/O/B/I
  • A/O/B/C
  • A/O/F/Ø
  • A/O/F/I
  • A/O/F/C
  • A/O/Ø/I
  • A/B/F/Ø
  • A/B/F/I/C
  • A/B/Ø/I/C
  • A/F/Ø/I/C

De fleste af disse må dog anses for at være helt urealistiske. Udover A/B/F/Ø vil jeg regne med, at vi kommer til at se A/B/F/I/C og måske V/A(/F).

Jeg tvivler dog på, dette bliver ret stabilt – Enhedslisten vil nok vide at tage sig godt betalt, så jeg vil spå, at næste valg kommer før 2015.