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Danish flag

Lessons for Labour from the Danish General Elections

by Ian Seaton

In June the Danish Social Democrats lost the general election here and we now have a right wing government. Why did this happen and what can Labour learn from this defeat? Some argue that the Social Democrats when in government were neither socialist – conniving with Goldman Sachs to sell off our national energy company cheaply and secretly – nor were they democratic – trampling all over teachers to impose a new regulatory system that has weakened and demoralized the whole profession. Others point out that under a charismatic and telegenic leader they actually increased their share of the vote but were let down when their, more left wing, coalition partners’ vote collapsed. So which ‘shift’ led to defeat? Was their coalition government seen by the electorate as too right wing or as too left wing!?

The answer is that neither shift was decisive in their losing. Whichever way the Social Democrats ducked and dived could not disguise the fact that for several years prior to this election they had been losing support from their core working class constituency. Their leaders were seen as mostly drawn from urban elites insulated from day to day life outside Copenhagen. Their previous core values like hard work and solidarity were being ditched for benefits dependency and the so-called diversity of immigrant communities. They had no convincing narrative for increasing the size of the economic ‘cake’ before sharing it fairly – nor indeed demonstrating that fairness is a driver of economic performance. And they fatally underestimated the rise of the Danish Peoples Party (DPP) which had spent the last fifteen years talking to and working with the Social Democrats’ core constituents on just these issues and policies. Thus many ordinary people whose support the Social Democrats had taken for granted decided they no longer wanted to be taken for granted and voted for the DPP. (Incidentally most British media simply do not ‘get’ the DPP when they liken it to UKIP. Back in 1995 you could have made this comparison, but since then the DPP has developed apace, stealing the Social Democrats’ clothes while they slept!).

So Labour’s lessons from Denmark are: get back to your whole nation base, develop a convincing economic narrative, eschew the false diversity of ‘communities’ and emphasise the shared solidarity of all citizens. And get a leader who has the drive and courage to lead all this. Unfortunately none of the candidates currently standing for leader fit this bill. Indeed the presence of one who supports islamist terror, who shares platforms with Jew haters and whose policy appeal is limited to the hard and fantasist left gives cause for dismay. Even worse should he make a ‘strong showing’ Labour will be perceived as marching up a tiny factional cul-de-sac, committing electoral suicide and leaving ordinary people in the clutches of the Etonians.

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