|Our friends in the North|
|Magazine - Book Reviews|
|Monday, 27 February 2012 20:39|
Christine Shawcroft reviews Danish political drama Borgen. The first series has just concluded on BBC 4.
She’s gone! Without even a snowflake pattern Faroese jumper to remember her by, Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg has left us bereft on Saturday nights. (There aren’t even any meetings to go to! What shall we do with ourselves?)
OK, the Leader of the Danish Moderate Party doesn’t actually exist. She isn’t really the first female Prime Minister in Denmark, nor is she married to Neil Kinnock’s son. But when you’ve been immersed in her world for ten weeks every Saturday night, you feel that she should be (the first female Premier, that is, not necessarily married to Stephen K).
We all recognise the world of Borgen, with its plots, spin, dark doings and fragile collaborations. Women will especially relate to Birgitte’s chaotic home life, as her family disintegrates under the pressure of her work. Series one ended with husband Phillip legging it, although I have to say I never trusted him ever since (spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen series two of The Killing look away now!) he murdered those Afghan civilians.
One mystery is why Birgitte struggles on without any help (not to mention why a Prime Minister would live in such a poky little flat – no expenses scandals there). At one point she reminds the dastardly Phillip that they agreed not to have an au pair. Why not? Maybe she can’t trust him to keep his trousers zipped. Trying to combine running a family with running a country, without a cleaner, cook or nanny borders on madness. She really needs to talk to Cherie Booth.
Any lingering hopes of proportional representation being harboured on the left should be vaporised by watching this programme. Birgitte goes through agonies putting her coalition together, then every episode shows her facing some kind of crisis as one or other of her coalition partners threatens to quit – which would wipe out her razor thin majority. The negotiations, concessions and dodgy deals which result make you want to shout, “Give it up, love! You’re not in power, you’re merely in office!” – but of course if she did we wouldn’t have two more series to look forward to.
The first series of Borgen has been an education in itself. Not only have we been shown the horrors of permanent coalition government, but we now know how to speak Danish. Who knew that the Danish for “spin doctor” is “spin doctor”? It’s enough to make you want to move to Copenhagen.