Last month, The Conservative People’s Party (De Konservative) celebrated its 100th birthday. The old top hat of Danish politics, the traditional enemy of the working classes, had survived two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Cold War. But on the back of the party’s worst ever election result last June – when it secured a paltry 3.4 percent of votes – you would be forgiven for thinking we were witnessing a deserted funeral, rather than a celebration of a party that at one point boasted 140,000 card-carrying members
Even most of its old aristocracy decided to stay away. Former chairman Lars Barfoed “forgot” to RSVP, former foreign minister Per Stig Møller had to give a speech in Birkerød, and former dynasty heiress Pia Christmas-Møller “wasn’t even invited”.
It seemed the people had forgotten, or at least stopped caring, about De Konservative. The world had moved on, they had not.
Last year, while watching the election results roll in, I had a similar thought. The broadcast jumped between election parties. Liberal Alliance celebrated in the Stock Exchange, where grown men –who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing – toasted champagne bought for its price and not its quality. Delirious over their historic election result and biting their tongues to abstain from chanting “USA! USA!”m giddy with excitement and ready to stuff miserably-failed American ideas and economic models down the throat of the welfare-state.
The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) celebrated their equally impressive election result in a building that seemed a fitting metaphor for the party – a magnificent white wooden palace in central Copenhagen nicknamed the ‘chlamydia palace’. A TV reporter tried to squeeze past fire-breathing hippies -the type who believe veganism will save the world and that everything will be just fine if we all get degrees in queer theory.
The Danish People’s Party (DF) seemed to have scoured Denmark to find their most normal looking supporters. Despite this, everyone seemed to look like melted marshmallows stuck to the dashboard of your car which, like their politics, smears acidic white goo over everything it touches.
The Alternative (Alternativet) held their party, of course, at Copenhagen Street Food. They are, after all, a party of hipsters who are happy to pay 200 kroner for a mini hamburger and think good conversations are a mixture of semi-obscure pop culture references and narcissism.
But then the broadcast switched to Copenhagen Jazzhouse, where De Konservative had gathered. The camera zoomed in, taking in a scene that was the physical embodiment of conservatism. Old, white men, their champagne glasses filling with tears. Despite increasing irrelevance, they couldn’t comprehend why the 21st century didn’t care about God, King and Fatherland.
But the fall of the conservatives could, in fact, be seen as a microcosm of what is happening across the West – voters are abandoning mainstream parties. While Alternativet, LA, Enhedslisten and DF moved forward, traditional right-wing leaders, like the Liberal Party (Venstre), lost significant ground.
Abroad, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom is predicted to win the next Dutch elections. It is possible that either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump will be the next President of the US. The Republican establishment threw 130 million dollars into getting another Bush into the White House and, despite his mother and brother pitching in, nobody cared. Poland has started goose-stepping, Hungary has been for a while.
The Guardian published an article last month, which touched upon the increasing polarization of politics. Former British PM Tony Blair was asked about the American presidential elections and the rise of Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. He confessed to not understand politics any more before claiming that “selecting someone who is electable is really important because otherwise you can’t help people; you’re powerless”.
Blair inadvertently managed to capture the problem without realising it. People seem to have had it with the Blairs, Bushes, and Clintons – people who change accents depending on where they are, and whose primary policy seems to be: ‘get elected’.
Across the West, the political establishment is losing out to the fringes, to idiosyncrasies, or people like Trump who seem to talk in a stream of consciousness, without political talking points and PR vernacular.
The future of politics most likely doesn’t lie with the big traditional parties in the centre – it lies with LAs, Enhedslistens, DFs and Alternativets of the world. Some are hopeful, others terrifying, but all seem to offer new solutions to the world’s problems that the establishment has failed to take notice of.
This is why De Konservative’s latest gambit takes on increased significance. When they withdrew their support for agriculture minister Eva Kjer Hansen, and engineered a government crisis that could have result in a new election, they did something new and creative. It was either the last stance of a dying dynasty, or a bold assault into the emerging radical spectrum.
Happy 100 birthday Konservative. M