Published September 25, 2012
Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, former education and culture minister, current member of parliament and recent vice-chairman of the right-wing Independence Party, said in a recent interview that “it cannot happen that some individuals in the Independence Party, along with some members of the Progressive Party, make it their project to create a tea party movement in Iceland. The Independence Party must not become the Tea Party of Iceland.” As Icelanders are generally not fond of Republicans (in a recent survey 98%said they would vote for Obama over Romney if they were American),invoking the Tea Party is just a shade less harsh than calling someone Kitler, the Kitten Hitler.
I was hoping this was some kind of countrywide party with lots of tea and cakes.
Nope, this is politics, whose only resemblance to tea and cakes is that when you have too much of it, you feel like vomiting. Since this whole article is going to be about politics, only the strong of stomach should proceed. Okay, ready? Here we go. Considering how unpopular Republicans are among Icelanders, it has been a bit weird seeing the Independence Party identifying with the American right-wing. Recently its youth wing released an ad calling for an offensive against socialism, featuring—alongside pictures of Icelandic and European political leaders—President Obama. Which has to be the most incongruous political poster since someone put a picture of Bert the Muppet on a pro-Osama Bin Laden poster. To further the ideological link-up, the chairperson of the party, Bjarni Benediktsson, went to this year’s Republican National Conference, along with Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, the party whip. In the political sense of the term, sadly.
Surely they have nothing to learn from a political campaign designed to make charisma-free Mitt Romney seem interesting?
Funny you should say that, because the Independence Party has its own Romney in Bjarni Benediktsson. Like the Republican, he was born wealthy, has a shady business reputation which is offset somewhat by the perfectness of his hair, and has been forced to change his opinions to suit party hardliners. That said, he has nothing like the Bond villain-type riches of Romney. His personal wealth has been estimated at about a hundred million krónur, or just shy of one million dollars, though he stands to inherit a lot more. That still makes him plenty rich by Icelandic standards, and one of the five richest sitting MPs.
Let me guess, the wealthiest politician is some namby-pamby champagne socialist progressive politician.
The wealthiest MP, ten times richer than his nearest colleague, is the chairperson of the Progressive Party, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. His wealth has been estimated at well over eleven hundred million krónur, or a little less than ten million dollars. Which is weird considering that until fairly recently the ideology of the party he leads was agrarian socialism. However, in recent years the Progressive Party has been a party searching for an ideology like a two year old kid looking for Waldo, getting bored after five seconds and running to the nearest adult to ask them to change their diaper because they did a doo doo, which is sort of how they ended up with Sigmundur Davíð as chair.
Didn’t the Progressive Party also get accused of being an Icelandic Tea Party?
Yes, and Sigmundur Davíð’s assistant responded by saying that he had “zero tolerance for that kind of bullshit.” Undercutting his words somewhat was the recent proposal by three Progressive Party MPs that the Icelandic parliament investigates whether its members had anything to do with violence against parliament and the police during the 2009 Pots and Pans Revolution following the financial crash. No one is named in the proposal but it is clear that it is aimed at certain MPs of the Left-Green party, notably its chair, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, and Álfheiður Ingadóttir who, I should note in the interest of maintaining a semblance of left-right cheap laugh parity in this article, is the party whip.
I was going to ask what a party whip does, but I’m pretty sure it can’t possibly live up to the name.
Basically, in the Icelandic parliament their main function is to confer with the Speaker of the… sorry, I think I will erase that particularly boring bit of information from my brain and go back to snickering childishly at the term “party whip.” To sober up a bit, however, it is rather uncomfortable to think that members of parliament feel the need to propose launching an investigation into their political adversaries based on nothing more than hearsay and innuendo. While not much that Icelandic politicians do is remotely similar to the kinds of shenanigans Republicans who court with the Tea Party get up to, insinuations of left-wing conspiracy is exactly the kind of thing they do. That kind of politics requires a cup of mint tea to soothe the stomach.