Author Archives: Bernard Aris

Steve Bannon builds “Dad’s Army”-brigade for Farage-type Europhobes

The ever-valiant editors of Liberator magazine, who make the Lib Dem glee club sing from the same sheet, have just published a guide to discern all the opinionmakers, leaders and groups in the Brexiteer and Europhobe bubble. And according to the European edition of Politico Magazine, Steve Bannon, the beast from Breitbart, is assembling what could be called the “Dad’s Army” of Eurosceptics and Europhobes discarded by their own groups, or whose sell-by date has long expired.

Using Breitbart as his platform, Bannon had (in the years 2012-16) assembled an assortment of rightwing, libertarian, neonazi and other extremist splinters, and used frequent interviews with tycoon Donald Trump to attract Trumpian voters to get them in touch with those ideas, to solidify their prejudices and their hate of mainstream, fact-loving media. 

Now that Trump has fired him, and Robert  Mercer has banned him from Breitbart , Bannon is trying to repeat what he did to rightwing fringe America; but according to Politico he isn’t having as much luck as he had with Trump.

Like most political currents, Populism and Euroscepticism have to go through an initial phase of competing opinionmakers, theorists and loudmouth demagogues; but the jingoism and preference for “strongman politics” (a leader, statesman able to make sweeping structural changes in a national political culture an – debate), means that the phase of competing schools inside Populism and Euroscepticism endures longer. Populists in one country prefer homegrown leaders, not from neighboring countries, let alone the US.

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Two young Dutch politicians: one substantial, alert to the times, the other unadulterated narcissism

Even with Trump handling his twitter account each morning, there isn’t much happening in politics this summer. As usual, that makes appearances and utterances by politicians stand out more; and two of those in the Netherlands symbolize the contrast in western politics nowadays.

 I’m talking about what two blackhaired young Dutch politicians published recently. The flamboyant conservative-populist Thierry Baudet  published a remarkable photo on Instagram; while the Oxford-educated Churchill biographer and convinced European Felix Klos, presently speechwriter for D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold  emphatically launched his candidacy for D66 top candidate for the European Parliament.

 The Dutch public has grown accustomed to the Milo Yiannopoulos-like  stunts and utterances of Baudet, who led his rightwing populist “Forum voor Democracy”  with 2 out of 150 seats into Dutch parliament in 2017, but his summer surprise raised a few eyebrows, even in his rightwing populist clique and claque. From an unknown holiday resort, he put a photo of himself on Instagram  lying down stark naked near some water, one hand covering his private parts, with just the words “release and reload” as subtext. This unleashed a storm of parodies on twitter; someone inserted Baudet as the body (of an executed killer) in the painting “Anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp” by Rembrandt.  But even the rightwing populist weblog “Dagelijkse Standaard” (dayly standard) commented that they hoped Baudet would stop publishing this sort of thing and return to real politics.

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Pro-Jewish demonstrators harassed at Dutch Labour event hosting Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn was the main speaker at a “Fair Tax Event” organised by PvdA (the Dutch Labour Party) in The Hague on Thursday 6th of July, the last day before the Dutch parliament went into its summer recess.

The event was a clear attempt by PvdA to regain some leftist credentials and kudos, after most Labour voters and supported have concluded that PvdA, in its “two big parties” coalition (2012-’17) with Mark Rutte’s VVD (NatLib; car-owner liberals), had abandoned those credentials and all its anti-VVD election rhetoric, in order to overcome the EMU Greek crisis and the EU migration crisis …

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The D66 version of Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” in Brexit Days

Today, Dutch VVD (NatLib; car driver-liberal) prime minister Mark Rutte, the only statesman who while visiting Donald Trump in his Oval Office dared interrupt a Trump rant against the EU during the press & photo-op moment, is receiving British Prime Minister Theresa May in the garden of the Catshuis, the The Hague meeting point and residence of Dutch coalition cabinets.

At the same time, D66, the Dutch version of the Lib Dem Social Liberals, is publishing a Facebook video of the visit Kees Verhoeven MP, our EU/Brexit and ICT/Privacy parliamentary spokesman, recently made to the doorstep of Downing Street 10; another coalition residence (since 2010 and 2017…).

Like a famous Bob Dylan video, Kees has a stack of large pieces of paper in his hands, which while he peels away one paper at a time, form a clear message from Dutch Remain supporters of al hues (but most of all: us D66 activists) to Mrs May, her squabbling Cabinet (including Heathrow Commons vote deserters), and Brexiteers everywhere, including those being investigated by the FBI Special Counsel for illegal Putin-Trump connections and Cambridge Analytica Fake News manipulation.

Like the bookseller said to Saint Augustine: “Tolle, Lege”; read and take on board, take with you as you continue on your way…

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What a start of a new coalition! D66 both the biggest (Dutch) progressive and the biggest Liberal party

In my previous postings about the D66 contribution on entering the new Dutch coalition government (here and here), I noted that D66 surprised everybody in Dutch politics by being able to have some profiling, and indubitably progressive programmatic points in the coalition agreement. Also, D66 was the main provider of women (cabinet) ministers; and they are highly qualified women politicians!

A brief “tableau de la troupe” of the new Dutch government…

It consists of two Liberal parties: the progressive, pro-European D66 and the more eurosceptical, car-owner oriented VVD (with prime minister Mark Rutte); and two Christian Democrat …

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“Once more into the breach, my friends!” D66 Delivers On Its Feminist Social-Liberal Tradition in the New Dutch Coalition

Part 2 (of 2): The people in the Dutch coalition: strong D66 women

For me the proudest D66 boast about the new Dutch coalition is that, where all four coalition parties said having more women in government is important, D66 with its social liberal feminist tradition dating from Aletta Jacobs and her British suffragist friends (see my earlier posting about her and Millicent Fawcett) actually delivered on this: with three female and one male Cabinet ministers, and with one male and one female minister, we have the highest proportion of women, and deliver the bulk of the female Cabinet ministers.

And they are not only there because of their gender; they’re quality persons, and we present the first lesbian vice prime minister in Dutch history (married, because D66 introduced gay marriage to the world). Let me give brief descriptions on their expertise and working past:

*) Kajsa Ollongren worked at the top in the Dutch prime minister’s department before becoming alderman and deputy mayor of Amsterdam. She put herself forward for parliament in 2006 when D66 went through an electoral nadir (after an unhappy time in a right-wing coalition), and in Amsterdam she got transnational platforms like Uber and AirBnB to respect the wishes of the local population and put limits on their operation. She is Home Secretary and vice prime minister. In her departmental days she and prime minister Rutte got along famously.

*) Sigrid Kaag who evolved from a British-educated (universities of Exeter and Oxford, and Cairo) Dutch top diplomat to a high-flying UN manager, negotiator and mediator, leading the UN chemical disarmament operation around the Syrian Assad dictatorship. She is Cabinet minister for Development Aid and International Trade, combining the humanitarian D66 instincts with hard-nosed practical experience.

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“Once more into the breach, my friends!” D66 delivers on its Environmental, Education and Feminist Social-Liberal Tradition in the New Dutch Coalition

Part 1 (of 2): The coalition agreement: many D66 issues, initiatives

Due to the fragmented party-political parliament which resulted from the Dutch general elections this spring, forming a coalition was always going to be a difficult process. Setting aside populist protest parties like Geert Wilders’ PVV, people expected the political center (from center-left to center-right) to play an active role in building a workable coalition. The only exception was about the PvdA (Dutch Labour party): because they lost disastrously after having been the junior party in a two-party government (led by Mark Rutte, leader of the VVD, and “Green-Right” ally of …

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Reflexions on the “how to exit Brexit” debate at the Autumn Conference

As always, I quite enjoyed attending the LibDem Autumn Conference and its fringe meetings. The only suggestion about fringe meetings I would like to make (as a member of D66, 27.000 members; we’ve always had one member one vote at our halfyearly conferences) is: if it is about the three issues Social Liberals care most about: Europe, Education and the Environment, having some fringe meetings in the plenary sessions hall (or a secondary big hall, like at the back of Bournemouths BIC, where the Prospect interview with Clegg was moved to) so that every interested member gets a change of …

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My reply to Paddy’s essay: “Learn from history and prepare on multiple fronts”

Dutchmen are often called blunt, uncouth because of their direct way of expressing themselves, so I don’t mind Paddy’s warning that as an ex-commando he “doesn’t do subtlety”.

As an activist since 1976 in a coalition politics country, I fully support his plea to work pragmatically with like-minded people of other parties (non-tribalism), and/or people who don’t want to affiliate permanently or at all. And having witnessed many local political deals by D66 with leftist Dutch parties (in their peak days, the 1970’s/’80’s), I also agree that a progressive, ameliorating, modernizing perspective/aim is key, not clubbing together for the sake of “being progressive”. Red, green or blue feathers don’t make a progressive political peacock more useful, or worth being, having.

But where Paddy compares our post-coalition revival with the rich programmatic harvest of “radical”, taboo-smashing ideas of the Liberals in the Grimond and Orpington days, he is being somewhat one-sided. Remember: Grimond became leader in 1956, but the avalanche of radical ideas only really started after the 1959 elections: the “New Directions” brochures of 1960-’67 (see: Arthur Cyr, Liberal Party Politics of Britain, Calder, London, 1977, p. 115-24,147-9; R. Ingham & D. Brack, Peace, Reform & Liberation, Biteback, London, 2011, p. 241-3, 245-’56). Grimond started by losing Carmarthen to Lloyd Georges deserting daughter, 1957; other high-profile Liberals defected; and we held our Bolton and Wade seats (40% of 5 seats) by deals with Tories.

But we were right on Suez (jitters about Boltons deal notwithstanding)and joining EEC; Grimond’s phrases were “polite yet devastating”, like Cable’s about Gordon Brown; and in the 1959 election, a trio of ITV television journalists (Robin Day, Ludovic Kennedy, Jeremy Thorpe) were among our candidates. Grimond himself proving to be better on TV than Macmillan and Gaitskell, made people start reading his articles, pamphlets and books. The Liberals were better TV-age pioneer politicians; Thorpe and our 1958 Torrington hero Mark Bonham Carter (at Collins publishing) were leading our publishing strategy, profiling; and Thorpe started targeting seats. But after Orpington, the Liberal surge petered out despite us continuing to put out radical ideas; so all that wasn’t enough to keep us surging.  

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Dutch support for a Millicent Fawcett Statue in Parliament Square

For Dutch Social Liberals, being a party activist and being a feminist have always been strongly (90%) overlapping aspects of our social behavior and social activism. Whereas Dutch Social Democracy until 1934 neglected the women’s emancipation struggle because the emancipation of all proletarians came first, we are proud that from the beginning, Dutch social-liberal parties (Radikale Bond/RB, 1892-1901, VDB, 1901-’46, D66) have always had feminist spokespersons in their parliamentary parties. Aletta Jacobs, our most famous late 19th century feminist, was a RB founder/activist, and it was a VDB bill which gave Dutch women the vote. And the 1966 founders of D66 were strongly involved in the Second Feminist Wave (raising male consciousness about issues like equal pay, equal family law rights, childcare and family planning), and proudly conscious of the RB and VDB feminist tradition.

And British feminists, Millicent Garrett Fawcett (and her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson) in particular, played an indispensable role in getting that Dutch feminist tradition going.

In 1870-’76 a young Dutch liberal, Victor Gerritsen, lived in London where he immersed himself in the Radical and Liberal scene around John Stuart Mill and the Garrett sisters. In those years (thanks to permission by liberal prime minister Thorbecke), Aletta Jacobs was able to study medicine including her Ph. D. promotion. On his return here, Gerritsen heard about this, and that Jacobs wanted to study medical practices in London. Gerritsen wrote her, giving her useful contact addresses, and telling about the advent of British female medical doctors (this proved the start of their love- and later marriage relationship).

According to the authoritative biography of Jacobs, she visited London in March-September 1879. Via the brothers George and Charles Robert Drysdale (women’s doctors and pioneers in Neo-Malthusianism) she met Elizabeth Garrett (Britain’s first female doctor meeting the first Dutch one), and worked with her in the London Medical School of Women, New Hospital for Women, and in Garrett’s “St. Mary’s Dispensary” aimed at mothers and children. Via Elizabeth, Jacobs also met Millicent Garrett and her husband, the Cambridge economist/suffragist Henry Fawcett (their mutual supportive, loving relationship was to be copied by Jacobs and Gerritsen), who were more involved in the women’s voting right movement. Gerritsen already subscribed to the suffragist “Englishwomen’s Review”, and had his British friends send him new Liberal, feminist and radical publications; when the Dutch feminist movement got started in the 1880’s, his substantial library was used by everybody in Dutch social liberalism and feminism.

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Trump’s equivocating over Charlottesville Nazis embarrasses May and hurts new US Dutch Ambassador

It was interesting to read the free daily “Worldview” newsletter put out by the Washington Post yesterday.

Talking about the unprecedented spectacle of an American President equivocating about how evil heavily armed, swastikas and KKK regalia-wearing racists and neo-Nazis are, the WP draws our attention to how these scary shenanigans embarrass the foreign allies and friends of the USA, especially those who (out of national interests, seldom out of personal sympathy) so far tried to get into Trump’s “good allies” book. The WP takes Theresa May as its case in point in this aspect.

They remind us of the spectacle of May visiting Trump’s White House in January, holding his hand and trumpeting that the “Special Relationship” was well and continuing.

The WP thinks this show of support was a contributing factor when May, a wooden campaigner anyway, held her snap election in June, losing her majority and seeing her ministers returned with lesser majorities. Trump surely didn’t help, attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The WP only quotes May seeing “no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them”, saying she didn’t mention Trump by name, and her then going on about Big Ben being silenced. WP concludes she is still too cautious to explicitly condemn Trump, contrasting her overall treatment of Trump with the more distance-keeping approach of Merkel and Macron. The WP mentions Tory criticism of Trump from for example minister Sajid Javid MP.

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Cable, not Corbyn, is right on Venezuela

The most famous example is in the 1960’s: the Cuba of Fidel Castro turned dictatorial after he let the Soviet Union take over training domestic policing and his secret service (in exchange for buying up his sugar an most of Cuban cigars; see Tad Szulcs biography of Fidel).

But also in the 1980’s the regime of Robert Mugabe over Zimbabwe appeared to start out in 1980 as a better alternative to South African Apartheid, but there the instant imposition and eternal prolongation of the State of Emergency, the role of the North Korean (guaranteed Stalinist) military training mission, their Zimbabwean Fifth Brigade pupils and their Gukurahundi 1983-7 offensive  suppressing Nkomo’s democratic opposition, disillusioned many supporters very fast. When in 1987 the presidency got real executive powers and Nkomo’s party was absorbed in Mugabe’s regime, things turned sour “for keeps”, resulting in misrule, murderous peasant evictions, clobbering opposition leaders to a pulp, and hyperinflation.

The 1979 Sandinista revolt in Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega kept on the democratic, progressive path during the 1980’s, but after losing the 1990’s election Ortega forced social democratic party veterans like Ernesto Cardenal and novelist Sergio Ramírez out, becoming  more autocratic. Ortega and his clique in 1990 kept the nationalized enterprises as their property, and after returning to government in 2006, Ortega was illegally re-elected president in 2011. Ortega, having fought the Roman Catholic hierarchy up to 1990, co-operated with the orthodox wing of that church (archbishop Obando) after returning to government in 2006, banning abortion in all circumstances (his main campaign issue and that of the “liberals”. Human Rights Watch since reported that bleeding pregnant women don’t get treated for fear of breaking that ban, and the Health Ministry ignores complaints about pre- and postnatal care.

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Trump Inc. fleeces US Government to keep nuclear button in-house

Embed from Getty Images

In a move unheard of in any democratic country regarding its head of state (both personal and as an institution) and his/her official trappings, the Trump government has:

1. moved the presidential bodyguard local co-ordination centre out of Trump tower to a trailer on the New York sidewalk, 50 floors below, and
2. made the presidential military staff, keepers of the famous “football” containing the infamous nuclear button, accept an extortionate lease price to keep it located inside Trump Tower.

At least, that is what the Washington Post has discovered.

In US politics, it is quite usual that the essential entourage of a president, as president and commander-in-chief, has premises on all locations and in all buildings a president resides in or which he (when will it be a she?) owns. With the Kennedy’s and George Bush senior these included their family summer residences in Massachusetts and Maine.

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Brexiteers Bearing Broken Promises should not underestimate the iceberg threatening their Titanic

I know British media and voters are less used to coupling the behavior of European Parliament grandees and domestic, Westminster Parliamentary Parties but it is high time they did.

At least the Dutch media pay close attention to how the group(s) of MEP(s) from each Dutch political party behave and vote in Brussels and Strasbourg. If they diverge from the line their national parliamentarians behave and vote (or the other way around), a big stink can follow, embarrassing national party leaders. In France the link is even stronger. Their MPs from the Assemblee and even national party leaders like Marine Le Pen sit in the European Parliament as well, and thus are obliged to vote similarly in both assemblies.

So it was very unwise, uninformed, very egocentric (in short: very Brexiteerish) for the May government to pooh-pooh the opinion piece by a number of prominent MEP’s in The Guardian last week. In it, they warn that between 67 and 77% of MEP’s would block any Brexit overall deal if EU citizens in the UK continue to be pestered  by Home Office shenanigans, and if the UK maintains the unsettled “settled” status that  EU Brexit Negotiator Barnier complaints can be scrapped at will by any British parliament after Brexit.

As I quoted in my earlier post, this uncertainty is helping to sour EU expats’ views of Britain, its government,  encouraged by the attitude of the ever so moderate, always respectful British tabloids of “Up Y**** Delors” fame .

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Dutch UK correspondents warn that the mood among EU expats has really soured

 

In his Sky interview on Sunday (quoted by Caron Lindsay in her earlier post), Sir Vince Cable warned that the Wimbledon tournament is hit by a serious strawberry crisis. British strawberry fields will (forever?) remain unattended because the people (EU workers) needed to pick the fruit have scampered home, afraid of the uncertainties of staying in the UK where both May and Corbyn keep pursuing a hard Brexit, never mind May’s sweet-talking at the recent Brussels summit (which was roundly dismissed, if not disbelieved by Juncker, Tusk and German prime minister Merkel).

In the Dutch liberal quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad of Saturday 1st July, the anthropologist and journalist Joris Luyendijk (famous for his Guardian blogs and international bestseller “Swimming with sharks” about the worrying ways of thinking and operating in the City of London banking sector) gives an assessment of the mood among well-educated, professional EU citizens that should alarm any Briton who wants the British economy to flourish.

And in the biggest Dutch daily, de Telegraaf of 23d June, Dutch expat and former Telegraaf UK correspondent Arnoud Breitbarth (now working in the British musical industry) voices frustration (“we’re treated like second class citizens from the moment the Brexit Referendum was announced”) and despair at possibly having to leave the UK where they’ve lived for decades.

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May’s Brexit setup denies remaining EU states what she wants to recover for Britain: sovereignty over their nation(als)

As the Brexiteers slogan “take back control” clearly shows, the taking back of government control not only over your own territory, but also over the whole of your population, nation, (in short: “national sovereignty”)  is a central plank in the whole, over-ambitious and under-estimated, undertaking that is Brexit.

But in Theresa May’s proposed treatment of EU citizens in the UK, she in two ways denies the governments of the continental states who, very sensibly, choose to remain in the EU (and, conversely, some British citizens) what she herself wants to “take back from Brussels’ clutches”: national sovereignty.

She does that first by insisting that the fate of EU inhabitants of the UK will exclusively be decided by British courts (and authorities), and that London will (negotiating with  Brussels) co-decide the cutoff date of the 5 year term you need to get a “settled status” in the UK.

And, because she and Brussels agree that it will be a mirror image operation, the fate of UK citizens in continental EU states is thus left to their respective national courts. Well, the courts in Poland and Hungary are being transformed into the servants of regimes that have heavy prejudices against fundamental West European and British values like the Trias Politica of separate powers, liberal democratic values, western education (George Soros’s university) and women’s rights (work beside family life, abortion). The less agents, carriers of western ideals and freedoms living in Poland and Hungary, the better, is the way Orban and Kaczyński think about guarding what they call the sacred “National Identity” of their “embattled” nations. See the way they marginalized liberal opposition amongst their own citizens, and how Kaczynski’s people humiliated Tusk (and Orban the professors/students of Soros).

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The narrow-mindedness of Theresa May as prime minister in a transforming world

While watching the Theresa May profile by Tory and newspaper “sketch” writer Matthew Parris on BBC Newsnight on the eve of the General Election  I was alarmed by hearing various people interviewed by Parris repeating objections to May’s breath of knowledge and policy interest I had earlier encountered in the Economist editorial and Bagehot column about her.

In his column in The Economist of 27th May,  Bagehot writes that in the social care U-turn fiasco, two worrying trends in May’s approach of being (prime) minister and politician came together with an aspect of her policy interests and knowledge.

Firstly, he says it is an “established impression” that May knows “precious little about business and economics”, and doesn’t mind that omission, doesn’t try to remedy it.  In the Economist editorial endorsing not the Tories or Labour but us Lib Dems  the paper also mentions her ignoring the economic aspect (“starving the economy of the skills it needs to prosper”) of a purely numbers-based restriction of immigration.

In the Newsnight profile, the point about economics was brought forward both by her former Cabinet colleague Nick Clegg, and by baroness Camilla Cavendish, ex-McKinsey consultant and prominent journalist with The Times before being in Camerons No. 10 Policy unit (2015-‘6). Clegg said he was struck by her lack of interest in economic aspects of for example immigration policy, while obsessing about immigration numbers. Vince Cable, former business secretary, made the same point  in this campaign, criticizing May’s cavalier pushing of a hard Brexit in spite of the thousands of jobs in London in branches of companies whose HQ is on the EU continent.

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How the Dutch embed anti-radicalisation efforts in stronger local “joined-up” government and co-operation

Radicalisation amongst young muslims often starts with exclusion from job opportunities, dropping out of school and/or sliding into petty crime and youth vandalism. Many famous jihadis started out as drinking, partying and stealing adolescents and youths; to be turned around abruptly like many converted “sinners” in many religions. It is also connected to growing up in problematic families (from which orthodox or jihadi Islam seems to offer a refuge; certainties their own family fails to offer).

And intelligence about who is at risk of such radicalization trajectories always starts with good, steady community policing; in Tim Farron’s words: with “information being passed on”, and building up “knowledge about who’s who, and who needs to be kept under surveillance”. Cutting police numbers outside the “terrorism specialists” as May claims to have done, means cutting more into ordinary community policing.

The Netherlands also has had native jihadis killing people on the street (for example the 2004 killing of muslim-mocking polemicist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh.  The jihadist propaganda from the Belgian/Flemish “Sharia4Belgium/Sharia4Holland”-sect spilled over into Dutch public debates, inviting Anjem Choudari to a 2011 press conference.

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Our Liberal “Internationalism”, born in a period of party fragmentation, is now our uniting and unique selling point

When you consult books about Liberal and Liberal Democrat party history about the birth of our “Internationalism”, European “Federalism” and our thesis that stand-alone nationstates (and “narrow nationalism”) become more and more obsolete, you discover a surprising fact.

According to Michael Steed’s chapter “Liberal Tradition” in Don MacIver’s bundle “The Liberal Democrats” (from 1996), it was in the comprehensive policy survey “The Liberal Way” of 1934, that we stated that in future, “narrow nationalist” parties everywhere would face parties, the Liberals firmly among them, supporting the growing, factual interdependence as best policy basis. Philip Kerr, marquis of Lothian, said (1935): “the only final remedy for war is a federation of nations”. But personal guilt about having himself written the War Damages clause in the Versailles Treaty made Kerr become an  advocate of appeasement to Germany, a Liberal dissident, until the Munich Agreement.

Both Chris Cook’s history of the Liberals in 1900-’76, and Robert  Ingham & Duncan Brack’s authoritative bundle “Peace Reform & Liberation” (PRL; 2001) tell that this  “interdependence  makes collectivism better policy”-idea was formulated in a phase of disintegration of the Liberal party (the split about the 1931 National Government; desertions to the National Liberals and Labour; loss of seats).  

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Social Liberals: winning against Populism because we have “street force”

First of all, on behalf of the tens of thousands D66 party members (over 25.000; and we’re gaining members every week for the past year,  our heartfelt congratulations to the Lib Dems on passing the 100.000 members threshold. And you’re not done yet, I know.

If we look to our Spanish and French social-liberal, pro-EU sister parties, Ciudadános and Macrons movement “En Marche”, they too are booking spectacular results in gaining members, and getting members active on the street. According to the French Wikipedia and the Economist, En Marche (EM) claimed 88.000 members in October 2016, and  250.000 now.  The Economist reports about EM-activists canvassing the British way in Strassbourg streets (and elsewhere).

That is the big difference I noticed in the Dutch European elections (2014) and our recent General Elections (March 2017):

  • whereas D66 activists were visible on the (high) streets and at train station entrances handing out leaflets months before (and until) election day,
  • other progressive parties (PvdA/Labour, GreenLeft, and old-style Socialists\SP) were strangely absent, where they dominated the scene until about ten years ago,
  • the center-right parties (VVD/NatLibs and CDA/Christian Democrats) and PVV never were very active in that way.

D66 has also started canvassing the British way in “friendly” neighbourhoods, talking to people on the doorstep; but we seldom hear that from other Dutch parties. Only PvdA/Labour appears to do that, and the Socialists/SP say they do it.

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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).

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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.

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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, …

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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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I agree with Nick: “EU must fear havoc from both sides now”

I was surprised when the BBC in its TV news bulletins yesterday (Monday 16th of January) interviewed our Nick Clegg by way of reaction to the infamous Trump interview by Gove and Bild Zeitung. Nick said that Britons and Europeans need to realize that from Trumps Inauguration, Europa has two big powers’ presidents who wish the EU to disintegrate; his words were “who wish the EU ill”.

In a previous posting, I enumerated how Socialist parties in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain have withered away; and how leaders of such parties like Corbyn and the Dutch …

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Trying (too hard) to curb EU free movement: A symptom of the EU-wide social democracy meltdown

Just as I was reading Nick Tyrone’s blog about Corbyn betraying the EU freedom of movement but wanting to have the EU cake nonetheless, another recently-elected Labour leader came on Dutch public radio. Note the date: Tuesday, January 10th, 2017.

I’m talking about former Amsterdam alderman and present Dutch minister of Social Affairs, the ambitious lawyer Lodewijk Asscher of the “Partij van de Arbeid”/PvdA, literally: “Labour Party”.

In the 1980s, when Labour under Michael Foot was going through its “Militant Tendency” phase, the then PvdA leaders, ex-prime minister (1973-’77) Den Uyl and coming prime minister (1994-2002) Wim Kok deplored that leftist populism and leftist political correctness gone wild. So both criticised it: British Labour, come to your senses.

Not today.

In the Dutch campaign that just got started for the General Election on 15th March, Mr. Asscher, who just two weeks ago won a party leadership contest, just said that he counted on “European Leftist support” (PvdA jargon: from fellow Labour and social democratic parties) to pursue his top-profile policy: curbing free movement of labour through the EU. When the radio presenter quoted a phrase Gordon Brown grew to regret: “Jobs for our labourers first”, Mr. Asscher readily agreed. And who does he expect to get support from?

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Farage’s legacy and continental populist laws put EU expats in UK in impossible quandary

 

With Farage’s legacy (Britain leaving an EU it never loved) and Trump’s victory in the US (appointing Putin’s friends on key White House and ministerial positions), the world is getting back to the “each for his own, beggar-thy-neighbour”-politics that were such a stunning success in bringing wealth to everybody in the 1930’s.

What the possible success in upcoming European elections of populist parties (many already being sponsored by Putin) will mean to European expats living in the UK (often being married to a British citizen) is becoming clear with the cases of a Dutch engineer/housewife and a German aerospace executive who both received orders from the UK home office to leave the country forthwith, as reported by The Guardian.

In the case of the Dutch woman, who was unjustly rejected in her application for British citizenship, an earlier Dutch political success by convicted racist populist Geert Wilders has aggravated the significance of applying for British citizenship; and will do so in the case of all Dutch inhabitants of the UK. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in their thousands).

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