A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Monday, 19 September 2011

The Danish Election Changes Nothing

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen. Feminist, socialist, far-left activist. Eurosceptic.

'Denmark last night elected its first female Prime Minister, ending a decade of populist-backed right-wing rule which had earned the country a reputation for pursuing some of the most anti-immigrant policies in Europe' writes The Independent with an air of measured jubilance. And it's true: Denmark's right-wing government was defeated, and the left-wing regained their dominant position in the Folketing after more than ten years.

This is indeed a moment to celebrate if you happen to be left-wing. The Economist notes that the string of defeats by left-wing parties is over. The EU is fully expectant that Helle Thorning-Schmidt, will be more compliant with EU law, as the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock and a former socialist MEP. For the feminists amongst you, not only is the Prime Minister female, but the Cabinet will be too: there are three parties tipped to join the coalition that will be necessary for the Social Democrats to effect, and two of them are led by women. Even the names of these parties are enough to make a Republican weep, let alone their policies.

There's the Radical Left, who aren't actually all that radical, nor that far left. They are called the Danish Social Liberal Party in English, which is a whole lot more accurate, considering that they put themselves flatly central on the political spectrum. Then, there's the Socialist People's Party (SF), who are committed Marxist socialists who operate firmly from a left-wing perspective. Just left of centre-left, in fact.

Then there's the Red-Green Alliance, one of many instances of far-left parties joing forces in pursuit of electoral success. They are comprised of Left Socialists (VS), Socialist Worker's Party (SAP), and two Communist parties: DKP and KAP. Three things that all Tea Party sympathisers do not want to find at the foot of their bed. If you were looking north across the Thames, and imagined the river as the X-axis of a political spectrum and the way you were facing the Y-axis, they'd be somewhere around Liverpool.

Left-wing commentators around Europe and the US are right to be celebrating: they have won, and there's not a whole lot we can do - or should want to do - about that. They now dominate Danish politics, and have ejected a right-wing government from office which always had the Danish People's Party, one of few parties frequently described as far-right that actually does espouse far-right policies, lurking in the shadows. The border controls that so troubled the Commission and Court are set to be scaled back or removed, and it is unlikely that the DF will play a part in governing the country until the next right-wing party limps to victory.

Butthings are not as simple as they seem. Helle Thorning-Schmidt herself limped to victory: she holds ninety-two seats out of one hundred and seventy nine, giving her the slimmest possible majority of five (effectively down to two when the representatives of the Danish Commonwealth, who typically do not vote on Danish domestic affairs, are removed). Her coalition may be united in its left-wing views, but that, in practice, means next to nothing. The centrists may approach the communists - both factions of them - with a cool scepticism, and the different flavours of socialist in the mix might make one hell of an icecream headache later. If this likely coalition is vaguely similar to the one that Thorning-Schmidt eventually comes up with, it will be about as united as your average hotpot, continually wracked by internal feuding. It's the left's worse-kept secret that socialists and communists are perpetually suspicious of each other, and whenever they have ended up in government together the result has always been ideological chaos.

It is too early to claim victory on the European front, either: only five out of twenty-seven member states of the EU are governed by left-of-centre parties. That's ninety-six per cent of the population. Germany seems likely to swing to the left, which will take that down to a rather more modest eighty-two, but still, it is far, far too soon for commentators to be calling time on the right-wing's resurgence. The Commission might blow a few million on celebrations - and the Court of Justice may breathe a sight of relief - now that the Danish People's Party has left office, but that does not mean that the new coalition is without its share of Eurosceptics. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Danes have simply swapped one right-wing Eurosceptic party for two left-wing ones. They are a reincarnation of the old socialism, the kind that Labour espoused back in the 1980s when it was still the main Eurosceptic party in Britain. The kind that viscerally opposes the EU. I'd love to see the EU denounce them as Nazis and fascists.

The reasons may be different - the Red-Green Alliance opposes the EU as the 'vehicle of European capitalism' - but they are still Eurosceptic. The social democratic federalists may have won the election, but they have not won the country.

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