What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Denmark’s battleground between progressives and populists

I just read this extremely interesting article on Denmark's political situation by Labour International's correspondent in Denmark, Jeremy Millard. Here's a few excerpts, but I encourage everyone to take a look at the article in full:

"Danish politics and political parties are currently on a knife edge, poised to go either way in the near future. On the one hand, the ruling ‘right block’ is presiding over a booming economy with record low unemployment and inflation, as well as an escalating current accounts surplus. A closer look suggests that this is largely due to ‘flexi-curity’, the Danish tripartite cooperative approach to labour market conditions, and the generally favourable international economic environment, rather than the sitting government’s economic management. The danger for the Social Democrats and progressive politics generally is, however, that the ‘right block’, including the Peoples’ Party, will buy-off the trades unions and working population using the state’s growing surpluses, and thereby ensure at least one more term for this unholy coalition at the next election due within two years."

Things are, however, never that simple. The present government is very timid and unsure about how to tackle the new 21st Century challenges of welfare reform, globalisation, investment in and exploitation of new technology innovation, immigration, climate change, etc., not least because of the incompatibility of the coalition’s unholy alliance. About the only thing the parties that make it up have in common is unswerving support for the Iraq war. The Liberals and Conservatives, as in many other parts of Europe, tend to be internationalist and pro-European, and even in some cases pro-environment, whilst the Peoples’ Party is anything but these things. Tensions come regularly to the surface. This new agenda is where the Social Democrats, and other progressive parties, have a chance to seize back the initiative."

"Thus, the ‘creative-classes’, or ‘progressives’, drawn from the better educated in left and right parties close to the political centre, are starting to define their political agendas in similar terms. They all recognise complexity and are outward looking, they think long-term and strategically, they understand the benefits (as well as the challenges) of global trade and investment, and recognise the value of strong international ethics, cooperation and institutions."

"On the other side of the circle, we see a growing coalition of populists, previously at the margins of left and right whose voters tend to be less well educated, more introvert, insecure and intolerant of difference, and who see politics and the world generally more black-and-white, them- and-us, and think short term and more fearfully of the future. In the 21st Century, it is access to and use of knowledge which is starting to define politics and political allegiance, rather than ownership of capital. Thus, many of the shrinking number of lower paid traditional working classes, who used to vote Labour in the UK and Social Democrat in Denmark, are being drawn to the BNP/UKIP and the Peoples’ Party respectively."

"Politics is thus in flux, and not just in Denmark and the UK. Left-right, progressive-populist, and single issue-networked politics, are all important ingredients of the new political sea of democracy heaving around us. The Danish Social Democrats and New Labour, together with other progressive parties across Europe and globally, have much to teach each other, but also much new to learn in partnership in order to successfully navigate this uncharted ocean."

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