While still a policeman in Odense, Denmark, Bendt Bendtsen turned to politics. He was elected to Parliament in 1994 for the Conservative Party. After an extended period of tumult in the party Bendtsen assumed the leadership in 1999.
In 2000 his lobbying was instrumental in saving Marstal Navigation School, which was in his constituency. Situated as it was on the fairly remote island of Aerö, the school had long been having difficulty attracting students. Even though no one in the maritime industry was interested in saving the Navigation School, the argument was that it was the life-nerve of the island.
In 2001 Bendtsen became Minister of Trade and Commerce, as well as Vice-PM alongside PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Blinkered by his own interests, and apparently oblivious to those of the country he had been elected to serve, he went about unscrupulously achieving his aims in the most undemocratic way imaginable.
Bendtsen plotted the downfall of another maritime education centre, MUV in Esbjerg and on the island of Fanö, in conjunction with an expansion of Marstal. Using the lessons he had learned from how Marstal Navigation School was saved, he acted in secret with a couple of others. Ignoring the fact that Fanö was also an island with maritime education as its life-nerve, Bendtsen closed down MUV on 4th June 2004, the last day of Parliament before the long, long summer break. He then turned off his mobile phone, giving Esbjerg and Fanö no chance to speak their case.
In fact, MUV was not only the second largest maritime institution in the country, but it was also by far the best. Furthermore, it was the institution that best lived up to the industry’s future needs, not least because it was part of a thriving centre of industry and research. Denmark’s maritime industry was in urgent need of more navigators, skippers, marine engineers, etc., and Esbjerg/Fanö had the culture, tradition and expertise that could provide them.
The official reason for the closure was to save 5-6 million kroner of the state’s annual budget. Peanuts when one considers that Denmark’s maritime industry earned 160,000 million kroner in 2006 and 200,000 million kroner in 2007. Bendtsen omitted to mention that it would cost 100 million kroner to close the schools and expand Marstal.
The publication of an exposé, MUV-affaeren (The MUV Affair), by a freelance journalist, Ann Bilde, in January 2006 prompted MP Kim Mortensen to confront Bendt Bendtsen, and later PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Parliament. Both of them lied when they claimed that the closing of the schools had been part of the original overall strategy proposed by the Danish Maritime Authority. Quite the opposite was true.
Despite overwhelming evidence of Bendtsen’s corruption and deceit he was never brought to account. Instead it was a case of shooting the messenger. Ann Bilde wasn’t popular with the powers-that-were. The vice-director of the United Shipping Companies, the very organisation that lacked Danish mariners, complained in the press that the campaign to reopen MUV was harmful for recruitment. Even on Fanö the campaign met huge resistance. Not least from the Conservative Mayor, who saw it as an indictment of his own failure to react at the time. A vice-director of the Maritime Authority approached Ann Bilde’s biggest customer, the director of a fishing organization, and told him to sack her. At first the director refused. But he was then threatened with the suspension of the entire 1½ million kroner PR allowance, so he had no choice but to comply.
And Anders Fogh Rasmussen and “bent” Bendt Bendtsen are still collecting fat fees in politics to this day. Shame on you, Denmark!
This sonnet, “Deceit“, is previously unpublished:
With Esbjerg/Fanö reeling in defeat,
you zoomed right in. They said: “This case is closed.”
You prised it open, carefully exposed
the vice-PM’s corruption and deceit.
But white with rage the vice-PM denied
the evidence; he even had you sacked.
Both Press and Parliament refused to act.
At Question Time the PM simply lied.
There’s something rotten somewhere. Justice sleeps
in poverty. Yet she survives. They bring
her to her knees; she does the only thing
she can: she hopes against all hope and keeps
the negatives that beg to be displayed
on every inch of every street arcade.
Here’s a recording: