(b. Copenhagen, 13 July 1922)
Danish; Prime Minister 1972–3, 1975–8, 1978–82, Social Democratic party chairman 1973–87 Jørgensen came to political prominence by what the Danes call ‘the long road’. He never knew his father; his mother died young, and he received a basic education at the Royal Orphanage School in Copenhagen. He then at the age of 14 became a warehouse worker, joining the Store and Warehouse Union and the Social Democrats' youth wing. He continued his education on trade union courses and by extensive private reading. An able organizer and negotiator, he became vice-chairman of his union in 1950 and chairman in 1956, and in 1968 he became chairman of Denmark's second largest union for general and semi-skilled workers.
In 1961 Jørgensen was elected to Copenhagen City Council, serving until 1964. In 1964, by which time he was a leading trade unionist, he was elected to the Danish parliament. Here he became prominent as a left of centre Social Democrat who was not a maverick and who favoured Danish membership of the EC. On 3 October 1972, the day after the Danish referendum in favour of joining the EC, he was nominated by the retiring Social Democratic Prime Minister—Krag—as the successor to the premiership, notwithstanding the fact that he had never served in government.
Jørgensen dominated the next decade in Danish politics. He had to cope with a severe economic crisis, with an unusual degree of turbulence in domestic politics, and with considerable trade union opposition, and his negotiating skills were called upon to the full in winning support from the non-socialist parties of the centre-right.
After his resignation as Prime Minister in 1982, Jørgensen was active on the Nordic Council—resigning as its president in 1992—and he has become something of a legend in his country's political life, respected for being consistently true to his working-class roots, exemplified by the fact that he stayed in his home in a working-class area of Copenhagen rather than move into the official residence provided for the Prime Minister, only moving when he needed to be looked after in a retirement home.