Political News in Digest: #MeToo case causes headache for the government

Moderatene MP Jon Stephensen’s message to a 19-year-old volunteer widely frowned upon amid calls for him to resign

The new party Moderaterne was very successful at the general election in November.

Former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s centrist party won 16 seats. As part of the government’s 89 mandates, all 16 mandates count to securing the government’s majority.

There are 179 mandates in the Folketing, of which four are elected in the North Atlantic.

The government will not be in the minority if a mandate leaves the coalition, but life will be more difficult.

So when Moderatene MP Jon Stephensen once again came under critical scrutiny at the weekend, PM Mette Frederiksen and Rasmussen, the foreign minister, got a political headache

This time, the 63-year-old former manager of Aveny Teatret in Frederiksberg came under focus after TV2 uncovered a text correspondence with a 19-year-old volunteer at Moderaterne.

In February, Stephensen wrote to the young woman that “you seem smart and are beautiful with the most delicious body”.

Calls for resignation
The episode has caused anger among the Moderatene youth party, where they are demanding that Stephensen resign due to inappropriate behaviour. Stephensen has not commented on the case.

Recently, the politician has been at the centre of a case concerning the forged signature of an Aveny Teatret board member amid allegations he has been pushing actors at the theatre to the limit, both on stage with their performances and off it with promotional work.

Following the rise of the #MeToo movement in Denmark in 2020, Stephensen sided with women and wrote several posts in favour of young women.

He has now been summoned to a meeting with the party’s leadership this week. It is a highly anticipated event where the Danish media will press the party leadership and Stephensen into action. It is far from certain that Stephensen can say anything that will restore confidence in him or his own party.

No-one claims that Stephensen has done anything illegal. Just something inappropriate. In politics, that’s bad enough.

Burden on the government
Like a headache you want to get rid of, the government probably hopes Stephensen will retire silently. Actually a MP can do that and leave his place to an alternate. Thus, 89 mandates would remain intact. But that would mean that he would have to give up his job. And Danish showbusiness is hardly ready to receive Stephensen back again.

The problem is that Stephensen either sticks a #MeToo case to the government or has to be forced out of Moderaterne and become a rogue MP, which will be a weakening of the government’s parliamentary basis.

It also reflects poorly on Rasmussen. Removed from the chairmanship of Venstre in 2019, he created Moderaterne using a crowd of inexperienced politicians and people who come to Christiansborg with a different background from politics.

Right now, that background is a burden on the government.