Tag Archives: party politics

Why I’m selling my Borgen DVDs

I was excited to finally catch up with this TV drama on Danish politics, because I’d enjoyed its lead Sidse Babett Knudsen previously and am interested in how countries run.

Unlike comparable shows, I looked forward to seeing a person of principle in leadership. Sidse’s character’s surname Nyborg means ‘new castle’. And Castle is the nickname of Danish government, from where the show gets its title. So is it saying that the fictional first woman prime minster (what took you so long!) is a new kind of leader and government?

But it didn’t take many of the 30 episodes to make me angry enough to start calculating my DVDs’ second hand worth. In one tenth of the show, Birgitte Nyborg has abandoned what made her endearing, and is very much of the old stronghold. Most of her acts are against the principles I’d expect of her. Yes, she’s meant to be roundedly human with mistakes and struggles. It made the show more appealing than those which just focus on political drama. I liked the early, sometimes naïve and unsure Birgitte. I rallied for her. But she got eaten by the end of episode 3 and from thereon, we only see flashes of her.

I realise the kindredness of Birgitte Nyborg to Wonder Woman – who I often write about on here. Perhaps the looks of Lynda Carter and Sidse are similar. They are women doing unusual jobs for their gender and fighting for democracy and high principles. But the charm faded through their trio of seasons as the lead got harder and tougher, focussing on being slinky, steely and bossy.

And worryingly, according to some comments I’ve heard, slinky and steely does it for the audience. Not for nothing does Borgen often open with a quote from Machiavelli. I thought these were ironic, but Sidse the Statsminister comes uncomfortably close to him. And yet she’s seen as still the heroine.

“You’re the best prime minister that Denmark’s ever had,” she’s told. Well, if true, the Danes have had a bad run and should aim higher.

Here’s just some of the things which made me angry about Birgitte in Borgen:

– she gives another small and kindred party a made up ministry to fob them off

– she sacks two friends in 1st season, another in series 3, and many others, without notice

– she orders and rarely thanks. “I need you to come over. I know it’s late,” to her staff at 3am! “I need you to…This is not up for discussion,” she tells her husband, who ‘misses his wife’! – And not just because she’s not at home much. We do too, Phillip!

– she leads in the hard headmistress manner, as if it’s weak to ask and consult

I see a lot of Sidse’s role as dominatrix Cynthia in The Duke of Burgundy in Birgitte

– After Amir leaves, she seeks him out at home for a job she needs, but doesn’t apologise

– she lets serious gay persecution pass for the sake a precarious peace deal

– she thinks in terms of strategy and victory

– she’s prepared to use an old misdemeanour to discredit a rival. It’s not her who stops it

– she tells long suffering Phillip he’s weak for leaving her too soon. I’d have gone already!

– she gives in to the medical system twice without questioning (interesting role reversal)

– she medical queue jumps thrice – for Laura, and twice for herself

– In series 3, she says: this is a room of dreams, but now we need to consolidate. Ie, which of you are with my dream? Or else, you’re leaving

– she never consults or mingles with the public she claims to support and who chose her

– she publicly provokes her old colleague deliberately and pulls holes in his arguments

– she says no to Jorgen the Viking’s financial support because of his strings, but then is back asking for it later

– she is obsessed with the cult of her, her leadership, her ideas, her party. When Unpop Culture blogger calls the New Democrats the Birgitte Party, he’s right.

– she and the show quickly drop the hot potatoes of war, spies, and prisoner cruelty

– she and the show suggest that leaders must be ruthless and put feelings second, and often their principles too. Professionalism means: even my bereavement won’t stop this election

 

Borgen sometimes is able to bring in many voices to a complex situation; sometimes it clearly comes down with a view, and feels like public information broadcasting rather than drama. Most real media challenges come from the muckraking gutter press; otherwise, the news says what its told it’s allowed to.

Borgen appears to be self reflexive: The show seems to say: news is hot, politics are hot, make sure you tune in and vote and appreciate your official quality broadcasting company (probably by paying hefty taxes to it). Compromise is necessary, idealism not possible. Work before play and personal relationships – be grateful for the sacrifices our leaders make for you, and if you are one or work with one, be prepared to make the same. Note that it’s made by Radio Denmark and over here, it was shown by the BBC. I am avoiding the BBC due to the reasons in my last post.

The fast fire news format is no better than Alex’s gameshows ultimately, for no-one gets to talk properly – it’s all about provocation and spectacle.

Here’s some hard news:

Many of us don’t follow parliamentary politics. Katrine’s angry at a friend for not watching her on the news, but he’s resisting the package they present as what’s happening. Borgen suggests that media and media advisors run the country, and that parliamentary politics is far removed from most of our lives and what matters.

We need something and someone much more different than Birgitte and her party, and a show which goes further in its courage to portray life as it really is, and as it could and should be, and to not assume that the latter is impossible.

For much of this show, Birgitte’s got her bra and knickers on the wrong way round: her priorities and values are all askew. She’s not ultimately a Wonder Woman; more a Twisted Sister.

But I’m not taking offers on my DVD set just yet.

 

 

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George Galloway – I’m Not The Only One

I first found the Respect party when I did a search for alternatives to the main ones. I was  intrigued by a social justice, anti war eco driven new political group and wanted to know more about George, their best known MP. I thought I might support and learn from him.

I have come to see him as the caustic Caledonian  – Labour’s Lucifer.

I’m Not The Only One is a hard book to read – not because I can’t understand it, though he does have a wide vocabulary, and his own word “obfuscate” best describes his writing style with sentences constructed like this – but because of his tirade. After the introduction, I wondered if I could manage the rest of the book as I felt I’d been battered with an energy like Michael Moore’s, but more erudite and snide. Happily, the tone lets up a little, but it is still an intense diatribe, though profanity free. George is often very personal and insulting about other politicians. He rarely explains a situation so you only get the George rant, which feels off kilter and his long multi clause sentences seem to hide answers to or ignore the many questions a reader will have.

George spends much time aggrandising or in apologetics. He speaks of his love for Iraq, which at first was very interesting to hear a passionate description of this country  – one he claims he knows better than anyone else in Britain. But the other thread of this book is the love that jilted him, the Labour party whose exclusion after over 30 years of marriage was still very raw in this 2005 book. He defends various things said about him regarding Saddam Hussein, Mariam the Iraqi child he brought to Britain for leukaemia treatment; the War on Want funds; a transcript of his trial in Washington – but not exactly why the Labour Party claimed to need to put him on trial. He often depicts himself as a hero – and a victim.

He had not yet parted ways with Respect leader Salma Yaqoob; and this book is before his Big Brother/Jungle appearances, and that awful rape comment, which he refused to rescind. It is pre the infamous Jeremy Paxman interview when he’d just won the London seat, and though he happily put down Britain’s rudest current affairs presenter, George repeated what seemed a deeply racist and thoughtless statement for someone who claims to understand the Middle East so well. From his website, it seems his style and sentiment hasn’t changed, treating his recent Ed Miliband meeting in the same way.

Reading this book was like a rickety high speed train where you’re glad to get to the end of the journey – or disembark early.

I am surprised but glad that Penguin has published this – it shows freedom of speech being endorsed by a major publisher. For there are some shocking accusations is this book about the truth of US/UK governments and their behaviours, particularly in the Middle East. And sadly, I think they are true. And for bringing those horrors to our attention and daring to say such against grain going risky statements, I applaud George.

I do think that George genuinely wants a better world and has taken brave steps towards that. I’m just not sure about all his methods of getting there.

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No axes, no strikes – listen to Hegel

I am very much opposed to the cuts that the government are attempting to put into place.

But I am also opposed to the response and remedy to them.

I am nonplussed as to why a general strike is being proposed. You will make those suffer whom you have pledged to support. Striking is like hostage taking: make a third party suffer so much that the first will do what you demand. Without food, energy, water, money, or even able to enjoy anything as it will all be closed down – how will any one benefit?! Some may even die in your attempts to save them.

I have just heard a speech asking for strong leadership – and then talk of trade unions. Trade Unions are not the alternative government, any more than a military leadership. It was the trade unions dictation that caused Thatcherism to rise.

I am not happy to be seen standing with those that cheer at her death. While I shed no tears for Margaret this week, I will not be rejoicing at an old, ill woman’s demise. I think the Independent’s editorial this week was spot on – that we should be using our energies in far more positive ways, to stop her legacy continuing, not to denigrate her.

I am against party politics, in that councils and governments should not be comprised of ruling parties all adhering to a group agenda who choose their cabinets, not the people. Our current voting system makes it hard for independents to get in, when we need more of these. It also means wasting too much energy on being elected before any good can be done. The low percentage of voting turn out is because many feel parties are too similar – yes, even the Greens.

Though I am for a system which champions the poor, not I do not want a reverse of the current system. Otherwise we are in for a history that is a game of ping pong between right and left, rich and poor.

We should embrace all people as part of our society, and not shun our opposite. Rich people can be philanthropists and finance good projects. They are not all bankers and toffs, but people in arts and sports, and some of those give pleasure and important contributions to the world. I am not for making enemies of the rich or Tories. Nor am I for a remedy which supports only one ‘class’ and type of person – hence I am not for those for the ‘workers’ only, making narrowly defined labour our raison d’etre and mode of worth.

Hegel the philosopher spoke of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. We have had enough of theses and antitheses; we now need to move towards synthesis, in peaceful, ethical way.

My suggestion is to lobby those who would implement the cuts (eg your local council and landlord associations), and also other bodies who many left wing extremists demonise – the house of Lords and the Royal family. If you think they are not in touch with ordinary people – and you’d be surprised, I think – make sure they are. They have more influence than we are led to believe – let them use it for good.

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