Theresa May goes shopping
Even from this side of the North Sea, it’s pretty obvious that, after the elections, Theresa May bought herself and her party 10 Democratic Union Party votes, costing 150 million quid a piece, in order to survive the Queen’s speech and get “back to work”. The question that must now be asked is if Theresa has got herself a bargain. Well, she’s certainly bought herself time (excuse the pun), but I’d be interested to see how much pounds per minute that will all come down to – and then convert the price into Euro’s so that we, on the continent, can all have a good laugh and a whip round to help you out.
The fact that what she did is so obvious to everybody might be the sole reason why she’s going to get away with it. We are all standing here gob-smacked at her audacity and lack of shyness. As a cherry on the cake, the Conservatives came out with the brilliant remark that the money was available anyway. So why not spend it on buying a few parliamentary seats, and then tell the nurses, firemen and police constables that they’ll have to wait another 7 years for that illusive pay-rise. But what is Theresa May going to do with her newly acquired seats – apart from paying more than £60b to the EU, printing over 3 million ID cards and refurbishing scores of council flats? One thing’s for sure, Theresa May’s ego would probably need ten times what she paid for, to keep it fully satisfied. Here’s a woman who is part of two elite clubs of prime-ministers. The first comprises prime ministers such as Winston Churchill who got into office without being elected. The second is formed by those who lead minority governments, such as Harold Wilson in 1974, whose minority labour government lasted a little over 7 months. Well, at least he didn’t have to pay for it, and what’s more astute is that in the october 1974 election, his Labour party won a majority of…3 seats.
But I must admit that here in the Netherlands, we could learn something from the speed and efficiency with which Theresa May has formed a new government. Since the March parliamentary elections, various Dutch political parties have been trying to bury their differences and form a working coalition, without success. It just shows you that the old saying that “you get what you pay for” is really true.
But why is it taking the Dutch so long? Part of the answer is that, unlike Theresa May who is prepared to put the peace process in Northern Ireland at risk, in order to mess up the rest of the UK, the Dutch are not prepared to take risks by forming coalitions with more than dubious parties. In refusing to work with the extreme-right-wing PVV and its leader, Geert Wilders, a working coalition comprising at least 4 parties is now required to obtain a majority that has any chance of succeeding. But a hundred-odd days to form a government is nothing to get worried about. In 1977, a full 7 months were needed to get the country ticking again, and that’s really fast-food time compared to the 541 days needed by our mutual friends from Belgium in 2010.
Since 29th March, former health minister Edith Schippers had the unenviable task of presiding over the discussions between the various protagonists in attempt to find out if a working coalition was at all possible. Discussions took place between the 4 biggest political parties – excluding Geert wilders – to see if common ground could be obtained. It won’t surprise you at all to learn that it didn’t. The centre and centre-right parties (VVD, CDA and D66) have a hard time getting on with each other, yet alone the lefties from the GroenLinks party (Green party). On 11th May, Schippers informed the Dutch parliament that negotiations were proving very difficult, if not impossible.
Everyone is aware that the parties concerned display mutually large differences in content. Not for nothing have I qualified the discussions as a substantially difficult task. Furthermore, the reality is that the available budgetary leeway is extremely limited, as was clearly explained by the Finance Minister round the negotiation table. – E. Schippers
Will a Dutch coaliton be formed before Brexit takes place?
By far the biggest stumbling block proved to be immigration, with the GroenLinks party favourable for a more flexible attitude towards migrants. Of course, you can forgive GroenLinks for sticking to their principles. They are all too aware of what happened to the other “lefties” – the socialist PvdA – who, having “slept” with Mark Rutter’s VVD, got kicked out of the bedroom in the last elections.
At the end of May, Edith Schippers couldn’t take it anymore and admitted defeat, saying that “ik ben er klaar mee” (“I’m through with this”), and gave way to the experienced Secretary of State, Tjeenk Willink. Ironically, Willink is a member of the dessimated PvdA, whose total number of members in the next parliament, you can count with two hands – without using one of your pinkies. GroenLinks also decided to call it a day, and were replaced by the ChristenUnie (CU), a Christian democratic party, whose policies on immigration, whilst being tougher that those of GroenLinks, still need to be discussed, in order to reach any sort of coalition agreement.
It is somewhat ironical, that whilst in the UK the Conservatives and DUP have forged an alliance in order for the UK to commit economic suicide, in the Netherlands, the different parties are discussing the rights of individuals to end their life. D66 supports the concept of helping the terminally ill in such a way, whereas the CU strongly opposes this. Further discussions on the subject of climate change and immigration are also taking place, with the various parties no closer to reaching a consensus. For the CDA leader Sybrand Buma, there are signs of progress being made. “It is a big project with four parties and that is very carefully done.” Prime minister Mark Rutte (VVD) also insists that things are being taken “step by step”. At this rate, I really don’t know what is going to happen first – Brexit or the formation of a Dutch government?
Since discussions with Geert Wilders are out of the question, it seems that if no agreement can be reached before everybody has had enough, Rutte will have to form a minority government and govern as best he can. The alternative, of course, would be to call another general election. However, there is an unlikely alternative alliance that may save the day. A coalition could be formed by the VVD, CDA, D66 and the Party for the Animals (PvdD), who won five seats. Such a coalition would be enough to give Mark Rutte a parliamentary majority of…one seat. It would really be a case of a prime minister being saved not by a few DUPpies as in the UK, but by a handful of puppies. It just goes to show you that animals may really care about humans, after all.