Author Archives: Bernard Aris

Our Spanish sister-party Ciudadános is using “Community Politics” to build up support

 

Two weekends ago (from Friday March 31st to Sunday April 2nd) a group of D66 party members from The Hague, with council leader Robert van Asten and national Foreign Secretary Tjeerd Dierckxsens from the party executive, visited our brand-new Spanish sister party Ciudadános in Madrid, where their constituency party received us. They turned out to be very similar to your average D66/LibDem man or woman.

Spain was the first European country ever where a small progressive majority of  anti-Napoleon politicians convening in Cádiz (protected by Wellingtons expeditionary force) promulgated a truly liberal Constitution in 1812; but when the Bourbon king returned from French captivity in 1814 he canceled all that and restored absolutist rule. Liberal rule was temporarily restored in 1820-1823, and later on for longer periods of time during the 19th century. But Conservatism (working hand in glove with the Catholic Church and the monarchy) and Socialism (starting in 1870-1900) proved stronger than the small, urban, liberal minority. Liberalism disappeared from Spanish politics in the 20th century, especially because of the polarization culminating in the Civil War (1936-9) and Franco’s dictatorship (1939-’75).

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

D66 leader makes waves taking a stand against anti-gay violence

D66, the party that initiated a global wave of legalizing gay marriage, made itself the emblem of a day-long Dutch media craze that even extended to Dutch diplomats in London and at the UN in New York, as the Huffington Post reported.

It all started when two Dutch gay men, walking home hand in hand from their pub over the (in)famous bridge at Arnhem, were accosted by a group of youths (some of them around 14 years old), with one having four front teeth knocked out.

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Brexit could starve the NHS and British arts & culture from European input

I’m pretty sure that British media have carried many interviews with EU citizens living and working in the UK about their thoughts about Brexit (and especially a “hard”, complete Brexit), and about whether they want to stay or leave now that Brexit seems inevitable.

I want to point to one case: the Dutch/Finnish modern musician Juha van’t Zelfde, who from 2014 was artistic director of the multimedia cultural center “Lighthouse” in Brighton. Because the outlooks of him and his girlfriend point to two terrains where the Brexit votes (referendum & parliament), the reactions in British society, …

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Compare the Dutch Government’s attitude to Trump’s travel ban to Theresa May’s

On Wednesday, February 1st, people from D66, myself included, attended   a medium-sized (2.500 people for an event organized in 3 days) demonstration in The Hague about Trumps policies (immigration ban; Muslims; Disabled; Women) and style of politics and government. This being an election campaign season, it was also attended by party leaders of PvdA (Labour), D66 (Dutch LibDems) and the Greens; and NGO’s like Amnesty and Oxfam NOVIB (=Dutch branch Oxfam) sent speakers. So far nothing remarkable.

But it was exceptional that the PvdA party leader, Asscher, is also vice prime minister and minister on Immigrants Integration, and that the PvdA minister on Education and Emancipation (including LGTB and disabled) filled the PvdA speakers slot.

I started following Dutch politics in gymnasium (Dutch type of Grammar school) around 1970; this was the second time in that era that Dutch Cabinet ministers attended demonstrations against policies of foreign governments.

The first time was when PvdA prime minister Joop den Uyl (leading a mostly progressive coalition that included D66) spoke on a demonstration against the garroting of Basque ETA activists by the Spanish Franco (fascist) government in 1974.

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Churchill inspires D66 fightback against Trumpism and Farage’s people-expulsing “Hard Brexit”

This past week, both the Guardian and the Sun  had articles about the deputy ALDE liberal group leader Sophie in’t Veld  in the European Parliament getting involved in the mistreatment of ordinary EU citizens, living and working in the UK and being married to Britons, by the May government and its over-enthusiastic Brexiteer ministers. Both newspapers only failed to mention which party Mrs In’t Veld belongs to: none other than D66, the social-liberal inheritors of the pre-War VDB.

As one of three parties at the origins of Dutch abortion legislation (very similar to David Steel’s brilliant Liberal inheritance on that point in Britain), D66 fully supports the initiative by our Trade & Development minister Mrs Ploumen to try to compensate family planning advice and abortion services in the Third World, scrapped by Mr. Trump and his Christian-fundamentalist Vice President Pence. We’ll support continuing that compensatory policy in the next Dutch coalition government formed in the coming summer.

People who know about the career of Winston Churchill will be outraged by the fact that president Trump, who cosies up to jingoist-Russian, NATO-threatening and EU-subverting president Putin, put up a bust of Churchill in his Oval Office. You only have to look up Churchill’s Wikipedia item to see that from 1934 onwards (Hitler walking out of the League of Nations and abandoning his Versailles restrictions), Churchill sought and got data about German re-armament (Luftwaffe) and harried the appeasing Tory governments to re-arm Britain. An enormous contrast; Trump is behaving more like the self-seeking, protectionist European governments, not paying attention to foreign policy, which proved such easy pickings for Hitler and (in Poland and the Baltic) Stalin.

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Washington Women’s March contributing to the new Liberator song book?

 

In 1969 in the middle of a US countryside pasture they organized a small music festival called Woodstock. The organizers (having lined up the “fine fleur” of the pop music in those days) counted on 200,000 visitors max. As the later song about that legendary festival attests, it were much more: “By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong”.

The same thing happened with the Women’s March on Washington, as older demonstrators noted. Dutch television news, in an overview of ‘Women’s March’ -demonstrations in American cities, even showed a massive demonstration in a city (not the capital) in the Mormon state of Utah; that must have shocked some conservative Republicans!

Another fact: this demo in Washington, with around 500,000 demonstrators, was larger than any Vietnam demonstration in the unruly ’60s (1965-1974). Vietnam vet and ex-Foreign Secretary John Kerry attended the Washington March. And while bully orator Donald Trump wriggled out from military service altogether to avoid being sent to Vietnam, John Kerry volunteered…

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May’s “Hard Brexit” causes tensions in previously strong UK-Dutch relationship

Despite all the sugar-coating in her speech, the “Hard Brexit” announced by prime minister May didn’t go down well with Dutch businesses, many of whom have done business with Britain for decades.

The combination of the threats uttered alongside the Hard Brexit option, and a series of recent stories in Dutch newspapers about extradition letters being sent to Dutch housewives by Tory immigration ministers, seriously changed the way many UK-loving Dutch think about being in Britain, and British policy attitudes.

That point was today brought home to me, when I met a friend whose family had been visiting the Lake District every summer for decades. He told me that he didn’t feel as welcome in England as he used to, seeing the way the May government is treating our mixed-married compatriots who also love Britain. He pointed out that May’s “walk away” threat puts British-Dutch couples in complete limbo. 

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    Just a note on UKIP, despite the best efforts of The BBC an average of the last 7 Polls puts them 3% behind us, on...
  • User AvatarChris Cory 23rd Apr - 2:16pm
    Agree entirely with William Hobhouse. Clearly we are on the up, but this election comes too soon for us. We needed time to refine our...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd Apr - 2:13pm
    So it;s a case of watch your back, Bob. Seriously though, Delighted to have such an able man join the party. His radicalism and wit...
  • User AvatarJohn McHugo 23rd Apr - 1:12pm
    Michael BG - I agree that we should not think of Putney as a target seat for the wider party, but I suspect the Tory...
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 23rd Apr - 1:05pm
    Theakes, I agree number 3 should start now because that will show our true beliefs and is also how we can persuade people who voted...
  • User AvatarPaul Murray 23rd Apr - 12:48pm
    @Bill Le Breton - I don't share your view on this. It seems to me that the times when the Liberal Democrats do best in...