X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Blogs

Borgen and Scotland: A Love Affair Founded on Self-Congratulation

6 February 2013

5:37 PM

6 February 2013

5:37 PM

Borgen – the title refers to the Danish equivalent of Holyrood or Westminster – has been terrifically popular amongst those people interested in sub-titled political dramas from Denmark. I fancy that viewers in England have simply enjoyed the programme for what it is: a well-made but impossibly smug piece of “progressive” political propaganda. In Scotland, however, it has been seen as something different: a glimpse of the future. Or, at any rate, one future.

In one sense this is reasonable. Even if it is only a TV show, one can see why Scots – and nationalists especially – should be thrilled by a drama showing how the ineffably right-on leader of a small northern European nation can make a mark upon the world. No wonder Nicola Sturgeon is on record expressing her admiration for Borgen.

[Alt-Text]


I considered the recent Borgenfest for this week’s Think Scotland column:

 It is not a surprise that Borgen should be such a hit with parts of the Scottish intelligentsia. Borgen, after all, spends most of its time congratulating its audience on the soundness of its opinions (and they are opinions, not, of course, anything so vulgar as prejudices).

Borgen never seriously challenges its audience, never really doubts the ineffable wisdom of its own holy progressivism. It makes the West Wing look intellectually honest. At least the West Wing occasionally admitted that some political differences might be the result of honest disagreement and not, generally speaking, proof of some appalling character flaw on the part of whichever character fails to hold the proper view.

So Borgen cheats, I think, and, by doing so, is right at home in Scotland. The deck is stacked. No wonder Birgitte Nyborg – the fictional Prime Minister played by Sidse Babett Knudsen – is so popular at Holyrood. Borgen specialises in the politics of smugness.

Viewed more generally, there is a move afoot to “brand” Scotland as some kind of member of the Nordic “family of nations”. In one sense this is understandable. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are each attractive, relatively well-governed countries. Who would not want to be like them?

But, as David Torrance pointed out here yesterday, Scotland is not actually a Nordic country. Our political culture is not Scandinavian. It is, to put it broadly, Anglo-Saxon. Nor is there any evidence suggesting Scots would actually vote for political parties that promised to raise taxes to Nordic levels. You may recall the success of the SNP’s “Penny for Scotland” campaign. Alex Salmond, for one, has learned that lesson.

Moreover, as cannot be stressed too often, an independent Scotland would hardly exist in isolation. Choices made in the rest of what used to be called the United Kingdom would impact life in Scotland too. You may argue that this would be regrettable (perhaps it would!) but I doubt you can credibly wish that truth away or pretend it would be of no account.

Culture matters and Scotland’s political culture is an English-speaking political culture with all that entails. That is to say, Scotland is much more like the Republic of Ireland or New Zealand than it is like Sweden or Finland. You might feel like going further still and observing that the problems of Greater Glasgow are more like those found in Cleveland than those experienced in Copenhagen.

Whole thing here. I would add this, too: Borgen cheats by allowing its protagonist to act in ways that run contrary to her own oft-professed principles only to always forgive her for failing to live up to her own standards. If she strays from the path of righteousness it is for the best – and understandable – reasons. Needless to say, such an accommodating principle is not extended to Prime Minister Nyborg’s opponents. They are never let off the hook; she always is. This kind of double-standard is basically the definition of political hackery. But, hey, at least Borgen is high-class hackery.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close