Denmark has two new political parties. “Two MORE?” I hear you cry. Aren’t they a little surplus to requirements, what with the eight or so we already have? The plot lines of Borgen were complicated enough as it was.
The first of the new parties is The Alternative (Alternativet). Its leader is former Social Liberals (Radikale) culture minister, Uffe Elbæk, who still has his seat in parliament despite, let’s say, a ‘bumpy ride’ in the last couple of years and never having ever said anything of any consequence ever (at least not on those occasions I have heard him speak - maybe he saves the juicy stuff for when I’m not listening). The party is actually almost a year old now but has only just gotten around to telling us what they stand for: turns out they want more ‘sustainability’.
With all of the greenwashing that goes on in Christiansborg and other Danish public institutions, you could be forgiven for wondering whether another voice arguing for more of the same is really necessary, but The Alternative wants Denmark to be properly sustainable and to drop its economic growth targets, for instance. With courageous disregard for controversy, they have also said that they want more ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘innovation’.
Oh yes, and the party also wants Danish politicians to be nicer to each other.
So there’s them.
The second new party is potentially more interesting. This is the National Party (Nationalpartiet), founded by three brothers, Kashif, Asif and Aamer Ahmad. Their aim is to shift the political discourse about – and perceptions of – immigrants. They want to change the way ‘indvandrere’ are portrayed by politicians and the media as either criminals, welfare tourists, or religious extremists. They want to paint a more accurate picture of a group of people who are vital to the economy of this country and who generally came to Denmark (or whose parents came to Denmark) because they appreciated those once traditional, Danish values of tolerance, mutual respect and openness.
As student Andreas Melson Gregersen wrote so forcefully in an opinion column in Politiken last week: “I am tired of living in a country which pisses all over international conventions … I am tired of living in a country where I no longer feel able to be proud of my Danishness because racist cowards have taken a patent on being Danish.”
The National Party might be the party for Andreas. I don’t know enough about them to offer my endorsement (for what that would be worth) but certainly, they are right to highlight the “racist undertone in the debate” about foreigners in Denmark, and they are right to call out Venstre, for instance, for attempting to categorise Western and non-Western immigrants into A and B teams, one being more welcome than the other.
Hopefully the National Party will raise awareness of the fact that, in 2014, Danes come in all colours and creeds, and that the vast majority of them want to live here in peace and prosperity while abiding by Danish laws and ways of living. They are here because they cherish traditional Danish values and because they were led to believe that Denmark was one of the most advanced and tolerant countries in the world.
At a time when the Swedish controversialist, Dan Park, and his childishly provocative works of art can generate limitless media coverage about notions of ‘free speech’, it seems to me that the National Party are needed more than ever to balance a debate which has long ago loosened its moorings on reality. Perhaps this is a good time for a refresher on the concept of free speech. Say anything you want, but don’t deliberately set out to grossly offend people’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and don’t incite violence. Mutual respect and good manners usually cover most eventualities, I find.
I sincerely hope that the National Party bring a little balance to the discussion, but they must gather 20,000 signatures to be allowed to take part in the next election. As long as the Danish media insists on referring to the three Ahmad brothers as ‘Pakistani’, they will have an uphill task.
Dear Politiken, Berlingske, DR and... erm, The Local. The Ahmads are not Pakistani. They were born in Denmark.
They are, of course, Danish.
Michael Booth is the author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle available now on Amazon and is a regular contributor to publications including the Guardian and Monocle