“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.

*) Ingrid van Engelshoven, a D66 veteran, the party president who alongside party leader Alexander Pechtold (who remains leader of our parliamentary party) rebuilt and professionalized the D66 party organization in 2006-2013. She led D66 in breaking the PvdA-VVD monopoly on governing the city of The Hague, and was successful Education Alderman (2010-2017) in that city. She is the Cabinet Minister for (higher) Education.

*) Stientje van Veldhoven, a former diplomat (with much EU experience) and economic policy expert, our spokesperson on Green & Energy issues in parliament (2010-2017), voted  “greenest politician” in 2011 and 2012, and still well-placed in rankings by environmental and nature NGO’s. She was the only politician joining scientists and top CEO’s in a consciousness-raising Spitsbergen expedition in 2015. She is minister for Infrastructure, Irrigation and Polders (we’re Dutch…).

Our male ministers both were Treasury high-flyers before they moved into politics:

*) Wouter Koolmees is a wizard with finding money for priorities; and while walking towards where the coalition talks took place, he and party leader Pechtold made international headlines by walking hand in hand as a protest against street violence against gay couples. He became Cabinet Minister for Employment and Social Security, giving the new self-employed from the service sector and “gig economy” a more solid place in employment regulation (see the resolution on that at the last LibDem Autumn Conference) and social security arrangements.

*) Menno Snel wasn’t a party member (his latest job at a bank and at the IMF made that too sensitive) but a lifelong D66 voter, being scouted and recommended by prominent D66 financial and economic experts like Koolmees.  He became the minister in charge of the taxation part of the Finance Department, which also handles all kinds of subsidies and top-up handouts for housing, living costs, etc. That taxation service is going through a fraught reorganization, and a thorough review of the Dutch taxation and social support system could be in the offing.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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