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A naturalised expat's view of Dutch life and politics

As the annual Black Pete debate flares up, two Turkish MPs expose a deeper fault line

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

Sinterklaasjournaal was a trending topic worldwide on Twitter last week following the debut of White Petes in Thursday’s edition of the annual children’s news show that tracks the progress of Saint Nicolas from Spain to the Netherlands. This year the whole country held its breath to see how Dutch public television would integrate the debate into its storyline. The daily bulletins were repeated in national news programmes. The storyline continued with the national televised arrival of Sinterklaas. Thursday’s edition of Sinterklaasjournal attracted 850.000 viewers.

On Tuesday, the opening bulletin insisted the Sinterklaas festivity would be “old-fashioned fun” and four traditional Black Petes were shown. So at first there appeared to be no change to the appearance of Pete in spite of the court cases and public debate about his colour. In Trouw, children’s author Sjoerd Kuyper reacted furiously to the first bulletin for portraying the Petes as dumb, because they were seen drilling a hole in the hull of the boat. The pro-Black Pete campaigners were delighted, but anyone could have guessed that as the story developed, changes would be made. A ‘leaked’ interview between Saint Nick and the news programme’s presenter, Dieuwertje Blok, a week before the daily updates began implied that rainbow-coloured Petes were on their way to Holland, after the boat passed under a rainbow. Add a comment

Read more: As the annual Black Pete debate flares up, two Turkish MPs expose a deeper fault line

How social housing bosses drove a Maserati through the cosy Dutch political consensus

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

Public sector organisations – even those that have been liberalised – should be reliable, brimming with integrity: institutions that we should be able to trust, even with our lives. The release of a report on the housing corporations, the MH17 crash and even the death of Theo van Gogh may suggest otherwise. Or am I letting the conspiracy theories get to me?

The publication of last week’s “Far from Home” report on the social housing scandal damns almost everyone involved. It reveals manipulation, fraud, greed, self-enrichment by directors and the failure of government ministers and parliament alike to curb their excesses.  The liberalisation of the social housing sector in the 1990s was meant to make it possible for housing corporations to make money, which could then be channelled back into low-cost housing for people who could not afford to live in private sector apartments. At least, that was the theory.

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Read more: How social housing bosses drove a Maserati through the cosy Dutch political consensus

Changes afoot for the king and Zwarte Piet as Wilders stands his ground

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

Once again Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), is to be tried for discrimination and incitement of hate for the chants of “Fewer, fewer, fewer Moroccans” that rang out on local election night last March. Perhaps they were designed to deflect attention from the fact that the party lost ground in the only two municipalities it contested – The Hague and Almere. Or the fact that it had made no progress in the past four years as it fielded no new candidates in other municipalities. Wilders knew he was overstepping the mark, because before getting the whole audience to chant, he said “I shouldn’t say this because people will file complaints with the police against me…”

At the moment it seems like the world is on fire when you read the news. Unrest in Ukraine, the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria, and the ebola outbreak in Africa. Nevertheless it’s domestic issues that are at the front of people’s minds. I’m surprised Wilders hasn’t been blamed for single-handedly recruiting more Dutch Muslims for IS than anyone else. The polarisation he has caused by constantly reminding Dutch people with a Moroccan background that they somehow do not belong in this country is partly behind the exit of a group of young disenchanted men to war zones in Syria and Iraq.

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Read more: Changes afoot for the king and Zwarte Piet as Wilders stands his ground