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A naturalised expat's view of Dutch life and politics

Rutte II's emergency face-saving surgery kept the health bill alive, but at what cost to the coalition?

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

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

What we witnessed in Dutch politics this week was a political pantomime as the shaky VVD-Labour cabinet clung to office. A power play between three Labour senators and a disgruntled Health Minister. And a cliffhanger as the public was made to wait three days - not for a solution: that was dealt with fairly quickly - but a sleight-of-hand to save the faces of the main actors in this schouwspel.

Political commentators and politicians alike in The Hague were taken completely unawares when a new health bill failed to make it through the Upper House late on Tuesday evening. But in a chat show former Labour MP Myrthe Hilkens said the three Labour (PvdA) dissidents had warned repeatedly that they would not support the bill. Nevertheless, health minister Edith Schippers fully expected that not only would the two coalition parties vote for her healthcare overhaul, but so would the constructive opposition of D66, Christian Union and SGP. 

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Read more: Rutte II's emergency face-saving surgery kept the health bill alive, but at what cost to the...

As Saint Nicholas is sent back to Spain, racism rears its ugly head once more

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

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

Dutch politics reached an all-time low recently when the Freedom Party (PVV) proposed in parliament that all mosques should be closed. MP Michiel de Graaff also suggested that the Dutch population was being replaced via ‘Muslim wombs’. It seems the anti-Islam party feels it can take what it deems to be freedom of speech a step further in the light of its high standings in the polls and the negative shadow cast over Islam by IS violence in Syria and Iraq.

In parliament, MPs enjoy immunity, which means they can say what they like in the Lower House, but have to watch their words outside it. Back in 2012, PVV leader Geert Wilders was acquitted of insulting religious and ethnic groups and inciting hatred and discrimination. Now he has finally been questioned by police for urging his followers to chant “Fewer, fewer, fewer Moroccans” back in March on local election night. The incident triggered a tsunami of complaints about racism. Add a comment

Read more: As Saint Nicholas is sent back to Spain, racism rears its ugly head once more

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