Editorial | Who needs Borgen?

The best entertainment coming out of Denmark these days isn’t a gritty crime drama. It is a real-life reality show that goes by the name of politics

Even the best scriptwriter would have had trouble coming up with the twists and turns voters have witnessed during the three years Taxgate has been underway. The drama opened with what appeared to be a legitimate tax audit of the PM’s husband who, due to his job abroad, was in something of a taxation grey zone. But the audit started to stink of a political abuse of power when it emerged that it may have been politically ordered.  

Two years later, the situation eventually cost the senior Tax Ministry civil servant his job due to growing uncertainty about his role in the audit. Along the way, Taxgate has ensnared journalists and political advisors in and cast doubt on whether civil servants, long deemed to be impartial advisors, are actually used to further partisan political aims.

This is all serious stuff, if not hard to follow. Fortunately for those following at home, Taxgate has had moments of comic relief normally absent from the Scandinavian Noir genre. The most ludicrous of all came when the PM announced that her husband wasn’t gay – before anyone had even publicly labelled him as such. The ‘allegation’, it later turned out, stemmed from the family’s well-meaning accountant, who felt that if he said that the PM’s husband had a gay partner abroad, it would be more difficult to rule that he was subject to Danish taxes.

And now we can throw in Denmark’s own version of ‘Deep Throat’ (the one from Watergate, that is, though at this point we wouldn’t be surprised if a porn star turned up somewhere) who threw the Taxgate investigation into a tizzy with an anonymous letter purporting to be able to identify the individuals behind the whole thing.

It would suit the TV drama Taxgate has become if the conspiracy theories the author hints at did exist, but the letter winds up being its own worst enemy by giving the immediate impression it is seeking to appear authentic by including mistakes and colloquialisms.

Fortunately Taxgate appears to be reaching its finale. More than just good news for those involved, this will also come as a relief for the country. Denmark is normally known as a transparent, relatively corruption-free place, but Taxgate has thrown back the curtain on a political system that has trouble living up to its reputation.

Denmark has long been a place where political drama has been confined to fiction. Lawmakers sought to pep up their system this week by implementing their own version of the UK House of Commons’ prime minister’s questions. With all the entertainment Taxgate provides, it turns out that might not have been necessary.

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