After nearly a year at the helm, prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) has admitted for the first time that the government got off to a bad start and that she was mostly responsible.
“I take it very seriously that we haven’t managed to get more support for what we wanted and the results we have created,” Thorning-Schmidt said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
She identified three main mistakes that have lead Socialdemokraterne to reach their lowest polling results since their election victory eleven months ago.
The first mistake was letting the media debate about the government’s “broken promises” to develop so far. Thorning-Schmidt said it could have been avoided by making it clear earlier that compromises would have to be made in order to form a government.
The second mistake was pushing ahead with ambitious long-term reforms without explaining their purpose adequately.
“We jumped quickly to the future and started to discuss how we wanted Denmark in 2020 to look like,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “I have to admit that many people thought it was difficult to understand why we were talking about increasing the work force and that people should work more when many people were having a hard time finding work.”
The government’s third mistake was pushing so many reforms through in such a short period of time that voters could not keep track of them.
“We have accomplished so much that it was hard to find the time to explain why we did the things we did and which problems we wanted to solve.”
The PM announced the government would take a change of course in the Autumn and postpone reforms on student financial support and cash welfare benefits and instead focus on reforming primary schools and tackling youth unemployment.
Thorning-Schmidt also expressed dissatisfaction with the far-left party Enhedslisten that has been a highly critical voice of the government despite also supporting many of the government’s reforms. Without Enhedslisten’s votes, the government cannot pass its legislation without first making compromises with the opposition.
“If Enhedslisten had used as much time speaking up our positive results we wouldn’t be in this position. I’m not blaming Enhedslisten, I am just saying that I think it helps when the support party also speaks up about the results, which they have not been doing."
Enhedslisten has been particularly disappointed with the government’s budget and decision to increase the top tax bracket for the benefit of the wealthy middle classes while doing little to improve the conditions of the unemployed that cannot be blamed for being out of work during the current economic crisis.
Enhedslisten MP, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, replied by arguing that political substance rather than communication should be the focus.
“Taking money from the sick and unemployed and giving tax cuts are not Enhedslisten policies,” Schmidt-Nielsen told Jyllands-Posten.