What Would Westminster Do?

If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed that I haven’t been keeping up my regular nuggets of common-sense-wisdom from Borgen lately.

The sad fact is that the source has been steadily drying up, like a babbling brook during the hottest summer ever.

Borgen has simply ceased to behave sensibly; it has forgotten why it was brilliant. And given that the brilliance of Borgen was the very essence of this blog, its raison d’être has simply been squashed underfoot.

Adding insult to injury, the Danish moral compass has swivelled a full 180 degrees so that now, instead of this blog being called ‘What Would Borgen Do?’ it should really be called ‘What Would Westminster Do?’

Over the past few years, we are increasingly witnessing the right-of-centre Danish government looking to the chaotic British government for inspiration, when it used to be the other way around.

Watch what’s happening at Westminster one week and, sure as eggs is eggs, three months down the line, hear it echoing almost word for word through the vaulted corridors at Borgen. How depressing is that?

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The Nordic tapestry of good governance, so admired and emulated the world over, is being unpicked, stitch by stitch, while this tiny nation sleep-walks towards the abyss.

WAKE UP HOLGER DANSKE!

So this blog is retiring – at least for the time-being, until some clever, visionary Danes sail ashore to the rescue. We’re looking at you, Alternativet.

And if you want to know why the British austerity obsession will always be rubbish, take five minutes and listen to Michael Schøt:

“If the cuts get us to the point where the state is no longer there for us, but instead we are there for the state, why should we give the state any of our money, if the state is not going to spend that money on us anyway? What will the state then spend it on? “

Listen and learn (Sorry Brits, you’ll have to brush up on your Danish first):

 

As a final dollop of sweet irony, we now learn that the biggest €200 billion money laundering scandal by far, EVER, has been rolling, untrammelled through the books of Danske Bank, under the presumably not-so-watchful eye of their CEO, one Thomas Borgen. Yes.

So running a blog called ‘What Would Borgen Do?’ suddenly became car-crash territory.

Be seeing you!

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Brexit Postcard from the Edge

Last night I met Nigella Farage. In a meeting room high up under the eaves of The People’s House in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen a dozen or so neat elderly burgers assembled to listen to a debate entitled “Should Denmark follow the UK out of the EU?”.

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There were jugs of aromatic Danish coffee, the type that teaspoons stand up in, there was oat milk and a big bowl of moreish meatballs. A good sign. The atmosphere was polite and attentive.

The debateurs were the Pro EU party Alternativet’s MP Rasmus Nordquist and Rina Ronja Kari MEP from The People’s Movement Against EU. Must have taken some effort to come up with that title.

Nordquist treated the room, in jolly fashion, to 10 minutes of logic, extolling the virtues of EU membership, albeit in a seriously reformed EU, complete with treaty change. Don’t hold back Rasmus!

And then she stood up and started speaking. Denmark’s answer to our very own Nige. The hyperactive Farragean foghorn delivery of the kind that makes your ears bleed was unmistakable. A verbal Kalashnikov splattering plenty of accusation but precious little substance when it came to suggested solutions. Even whether to call this quest ‘Dexit’ or ‘Daxit’ seemed to invite no ready response.

Kari’s direction of travel, as far as I could gather, whenever my Tinnitus subsided sufficiently, was to “just wind the world back to ca 1958 and all in the garden will be rosy”. Of course, Rina wasn’t alive then, but I was and, even as a kid, I sensed that this was just duller than dishwater, so I was out of there at the earliest opportunity.

Now, half a century of ex-pat life later, I marvel at just how far tiny Denmark has travelled, being part of a block 148 times its size. Talk about punching above your weight! The thought of what would happen out there in the big world, were the country’s punch to suddenly shrivel 148 times is, well, interesting.

Back in Frederiksberg, Nordquist’s raucous belly laughs mixed with Kari’s shrill motormouth rhetoric taught me nothing I didn’t know before entering this little haven of polite Danish middle class activism. Except perhaps that many Euros are wasted on Kari’s MEP salary and Nordquist gets my vote.

Logic always wins the day, in my book.

Kiss me Corbyn… This would not play well at Borgen

In a week when vast crowds of desperate families opted for risking a watery grave on the high seas instead of being blown to pieces at home, UK media boiled over with sucking indignation. About Kings and Queens and men in tights. Yes, really.

Newly minted darling-of-the-people, republican Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn side-stepped the opportunity to kneel before the British Queen and kiss her hand while being initiated into something called the Privy Council.

Apparently, in order to gain access to the nuclear button and other such intriguing instruments of state, Corbyn needs to become a member of the Privy Council, or PC as it is commonly called, which is ironic, considering that it must rank among the least PC bodies on the planet.

In the process, Corbyn needs to swear an oath to the Queen, and to validate the oath he must kneel before her and kiss her hand. No no, you’re not mistaken, this is the year 2015. But this is also Great Britain, although the ‘Great’ evaporated some time ago and what is left of Britain still seems to prefer the year 1915.

So what is this Privy Council? Well, if you judge the 800+ strong, unelected House of Lords to be the pinnacle of undemocratic government institutions, you clearly have yet to encounter Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, currently comprising some 600 equally unelected members. Such lack of democratic legitimacy, however, does not prevent this body of… whoevers – from advising the monarch on all things governmental. Exactly why Her Maj needs such advice is unclear, as she has no influence over, well, anything. In theory, at least.

Now, Corbyn is a republican (a view for which he incidentally can still be incarcerated for life in Blighty). Be that as it may, he is hardly likely to subject himself to such public humiliation, and he would, in any event, be a hypocrite to do so. Such shenanigans have absolutely no place in a modern society. What is shocking is not Corbyn’s attitude but that no one has sought to question this risible ritual until now.

British blood pressure had already been pumped up royally by Jeremy not lending his vocal chords to the national anthem during a recent Remembrance Day ceremony. It seems that no one, except for Corbyn, has cottoned on to the fact that “God Save the Queen” is not a ‘national anthem’ at all. It is a ‘royal anthem’. Why one should wish to sing about saving one particular person, however royal, while honouring the war sacrifices of millions of citizens, dead or alive, is a mystery. In fact, it is quite offensive.

Denmark is a monarchy, so what does Borgen do?

As luck would have it, the week in question also saw Danish Parliamentary activity aflutter as Borgen returned from the summer recess. The opening of the Danish Folketing took place on Tuesday 6 October 2015 amid much jolly backslapping and an overflow of flowers and flags. Borgen’s answer to Dennis Skinner and veteran member of the House Bertel Haarder had even composed a rap to mark the occasion.

There was, however, not a glimmer of fancy dress. Or men in tights, for that matter. Queen Margrethe arrived, sporting a red hat, what else? Mode of transport: a vintage Rolls adorned with a couple of fluttering flags. A few half hearted bows and genuflections welcomed her and, together with the rest of her family, she took her seat upstairs, next to the public gallery, settling down to listen to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen deliver his programme for the forthcoming year.

Now, despite general acceptance of the Danish royals, the country does have its fair share of vocal dissenters – it’s a free country. There are 12 parties in the Folketing, two of which, Enhedslisten and Socialistisk Folkeparti are confirmed republicans. As custom requires Members of Parliament to stand up when the Queen enters, the republicans simply enter after the Queen. Job sorted. Not everyone appreciates this approach, but all accept the right to do as each sees fit.

As for a national anthem, all Scandinavian monarchies have two anthems: a national anthem and a royal anthem. The national anthems all vax lyrical about the country and its people: “Der Er Et Yndigt Land” (“There Is A Lovely Land” – Denmark), “Ja Vi Elsker Dette Landet” (“Yes We Do Love This Country” – Norway) and “Du Gamla Du Fria” (“You Are Old You Are Free” – Sweden). In fact, so patriotic are the Danes that the first verse of “Der Er Et Yndigt Land” was sewn in to every item of athletes’ clothing for the London 2012 Olympics.

The royal anthems, on the other hand, either recount heroic acts by a dead king “Kong Christian Stod Ved Højen Mast I Røg Og Damp” “King Christian Stood by a Tall Mast in Smoke and Steam” (Denmark), or run along the usual lines of ‘long life’ ‘honour’ that sort of thing. Swedes sing “Kungssången” (“The King’s Song”) and Norway’s “Kongesangen” (“The King’s Song”) is a variation of God Save The Queen. Clearly no Eurovision winners there. They are all reserved mainly for royal births, marriages and deaths or visits by other royals.

So, as a republican, Corbyn is perfectly correct to decline to save the Queen, whom he is presumably hell bent on putting out to grass anyway. Besides, it is complete nonsense for a people to sing about a Queen, when they’re really celebrating themselves and the country they have all crafted with their own bare hands and fought for in their own blood, sweat and tears.

If the order of the day is to save someone, instead of singing about saving the Queen, our full attention should be on saving the desperate boat people in the Mediterranean. The Queen is more than capable of looking after herself.

Of course, the reason for all the flush-faced fury is that Jeremy Corbyn’s sucker punch has well and truly winded the entire British establishment, politicians to the left and right alike, the serried ranks of the armed forces and the jabbering journos of the media, who thought they could carry on blithely phoning it in.

Brits in their hundreds of thousands are, however, now massing behind change. They expect Corbyn to stick firmly to his guns and refuse to play the pointless, demeaning games that are helping to keep the elite in power and the people ‘in their place’.

The people just jumped the fence. They are in the building.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – What on earth is Borgen doing?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark“. Thus spake Hamlet’s mate Marcellus, back in the year 1600. It could just as easily have been half an hour ago.

For Borgen’s freshly minted right wing government is busy cribbing British Prime Minister David Cameron’s reactionary austerity politics for use in their spanking new raft of policy proposals. All the while, the Brits are equally busy arguing about exactly how many thousands of sick and disabled compatriots have died less than three weeks after being declared ‘Fit For Work’ by Iain Duncan Smith’s Stasi – the Department for Work and Pensions.

It would appear that Borgen’s new Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is hell bent on steering the happiest, most equal and well functioning nation on the planet headlong in the direction of the most miserable, most unequal and dysfunctional country in Europe. From inhabitants to immigrants, asylum seekers to average citizens, everyone’s in the firing line. Confused? You should be. Continue reading

Corbyn, Sturgeon and a guy called Nigel… Borgen would love them all

Q: What do Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood all have in common?

A: WYSIWYG

Agree with them or not, no one could doubt that they all speak their own words or that they all passionately believe in what they say. And they do say what they believe in. Very loudly.

For every other politician it’s business as usual: ‘We can’t think of anything original to say, so let’s instead demolish what everyone else says.’ Continue reading

Probing The Establishment Danishly. A ‘What Would Borgen Do’ experiment

A true testament to human kindness dropped through my letterbox. I hadn’t ordered anything off the internet so I was excited at the thought that someone might be sending me a surprise pressie.

The first clue that this was something entirely different lay in the Danish postmark “Hittegodskontoret, 2720 Vanløse” Lost Property Office (or Found Goods Office, as they say in Denmark and which makes much more sense, when you think about it). Continue reading

Is disability a handicap? What does Borgen think?

In William Beveridge’s welfare state that is Great Britain, welfare has taken a hammering over the past five years. And if David Cameron gets his way in the general election on May 7, a further eye watering 12 billion pounds worth of welfare cuts are likely to come down the pike over the next five years.

Economists and think tanks alike are shuffling their feet uneasily at the prospect, so is it time to ask the question: “is Great Britain still a welfare state at all, or has it transmogrified into something worryingly different?Continue reading