Part 2: Rutte, from Cameron buddy to May’s stern advocate

The liberal Dutch parties VVD and D66 have two distinct identities and historical predecessors. The VVD is more a car-loving, classical-liberal party with, since 1990’s leader Bolkestein, anti-federalist EU instincts, and has less of an environmental record than D66, who premièred gay marriage and are electoral reformers, very similar to the Lib Dems.

Contacts between the Lib Dems and D66 (both social-liberal) are warmer and broader than the VVD-Lib Dems. In Chris Bowers’ biography of Clegg, VVD figures once (p. 104), whereas D66 & Lousewies Vander Laan are on pages  102-3, 104 and 266-7 as Clegg supporters, also in the Coalition.

In the Dutch Balkenende II government (2003-’06), VVD was constantly squabbling about who was leader, and VVD minister Verdonk tried to rob VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her Dutch passport, eliciting a no confidence motion from coalition partner D66.

To detoxify the VVD brand, Rutte in his first year as leader (2006-7) tried to set the VVD on a similar green course as Cameron tried with the Tories; both leaders let environmentalism slip because of insufficient backup from party grassroots and cadres. Rutte is totally absent from the Clegg biography (written in 2010).

The Rutte-Cameron relationship, begun while in opposition, blossomed when in 2010 both became prime minister (Rutte accepting support from Wilders, who was attacked by D66’s leader Pechtold).

Rutte, remembering the 2005 Dutch referendum on the “European Constitution” fiasco, warned Cameron against promising anything like a Brexit referendum.

According to David Laws’ book on the Coaliton (p. 406-09), the success D66 had fighting Wilders in debates from 2006 onwards, inspired Rutte’s advice to Clegg to challenge Farage; as we all know, their first 2014 debate was a draw, their second a PR disaster for Clegg and the pro-European cause.

Meanwhile, after the First Rutte Government was broken by Wilders walking out in 2012, Rutte remained strong in the elections and entered a coalition with PvdA (Labour). After Rutte II lost its majority in the Dutch Senate, from 2015 D66 and the orthodox protestant parties (ChristenUnie and SGP) offered confidence and supply in exchange for huge investment in education (D66) and NATO (all three partners). Thus Rutte II could reign the full term, a rarity. After the 2017 elections, Rutte was able to form a coalition with CDA (Christian Democrats), D66 and ChristenUnie. Thus, Rutte was Dutch prime minister from 2010 to the present, becoming a veteran (and mediator, reconciler) in the European Council.

Picking up the Dutch-British relationship when Cameron stood down, May was much helped by Rutte’s experience and stature in European politics; they’re in regular contact by telephone or in bilateral meetings.

This is what Rutte said on March 14th, after her second Brexit Deal disaster in the Commons. I translate verbatim from the coverage by NOS (our BBC): “What’s the sense of keep on whining to each other for more months, after running around that circle for the past two years?”. In his view, the British will have to start dropping some red lines, especially around Northern Ireland and the Customs Union, if we’re going to have any agreement. Rutte announces that he’ll do nothing; it is entirely up to May.

* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • David Rogers
    Not having bought a copy of The Guardian for decades, I was unaware of the article which prompted John Marriott's piece!! Nevertheless, as someone who had been...
  • Frank West
    Efficient local services would be wonderful but largely non-existent, the bottomless pit of council spending that expands to absorb whatever money they manage t...
  • George Thomas
    "There is no evidence that there is any problem in the United Kingdom with voter impersonation." Such a bizarre point of view in my opinion. Is there a vulne...
  • expats
    Jayne mansfield 23rd Jul '21 - 3:[email protected] @expats, @ David Raw,Did you watch Steve McQueen’s moving three part documentary series, Uprising ?... What struck...
  • james
    As the Lib Dems aside from Vax passports seem to always side with the safety first crowd surely that should apply here. Like masks it doesn't matter if there...