Back to previous post: Patrick’s won the Hugo for Best Editor!

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: ΥΣΑ! ΥΣΑ!

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

September 5, 2010

Failures of cabinetry in the Low Countries
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:32 PM * 90 comments

Welcome to the newest episode of the Dutch cabinet formation trainwreck epic!

In the last exciting installment, we were discouraged because the Netherlands looked to be headed for a right-leaning minority government made up of the VVD (moderate right-wingers) and the CDA (Christian Democrats, pretty much centrists). To make up the numbers for crucial votes, the government was going to rely on Geert Wilders’ notorious PVV, usually referred to in the English-language press as the Freedom Party. This was widely seen as the worst of both worlds, because Wilders would not be bound by the expectations of responsible behavior that we have of ruling parties, but would still be “in power” enough to peddle his noxious blend of Islamophobia and trollishness.

The negotiations were going slowly, partly because some parts of the the CDA were getting cold feet about the price of cooperation with the PVV. In exchange for his support on economic measures, Wilders wanted to influence the way that the Dutch government treats immigrants and Muslims. The problem festered throughout August. Then, on September 1, a letter (Dutch, PDF) from Ab Klink, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport in the last government, hit the evening news. In it, he explained in detail why spoons don’t come long enough for him to sup with Geert Wilders.

This was a particular problem, because Klink was one of the CDA’s coalition negotiators. Furthermore, he was joined in his protest by two more of the CDA’s 21 MP’s: Ad Koppejan and Kathleen Ferrier*. After swift discussions behind closed doors, the CDA replaced Klink in the negotiating team, and the three dissidents promised to await the final coalition agreement before making a judgement.

This was not good enough for Wilders, who demanded that they commit in writing to support the final coalition agreement before he would re-enter negotiations. That demand is somewhere between unethical and illegal in the Netherlands, where each MP holds his or her seat personally, and has free choice about how to vote. (It is, however, fairly close to how Wilders runs the PVV.)

So on Friday, Wilders withdrew from negotiations on the grounds that he could no longer trust the CDA. Without the PVV, the right-wing coalition has no chance of a reliable majority on contentious economic issues, so this fifth round of cabinet formation is a failure. Informateur Ivo Opstelten has so reported to the Queen.

Speculation about what happens next is rife, but the consensus seems to be that someone—either VVD leader Mark Rutte or a new agent of the Queen—will draw up a coalition accord and shop it round (since getting the parties together to draw one up collectively has failed five times now). The hope is that either the larger parties can show some flexibility on their manifestos, or that enough individual MPs will agree to the accord without full party consent. In either case, the government will be fragile and cautious.

No matter what, the chances that Wilders will end up in government, or with influence in government, are much reduced. This is both good and bad; it means his ideas (like a €1000 headscarf tax†) won’t get the respectability of public office, but it also means he and his followers can paint themselves as the brave dissidents whom no one dares listen to‡.

Stay tuned for further developments.

* No, not her, but named after her
† Not for nothing has he been called een paling in een emmer snot, an eel in a bucket of snot.
‡ You know, the kind of people whose truths are just too brave for the majority to handle. The last time I listened to a debate he was in I nearly stood up and shouted “Bingo!”

I am not an expert in Dutch politics; I just live here. Linked items are in English unless otherwise stated. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Produced in a household that contains cheese. This guarantee does not affect your statutory rights.

Comments on Failures of cabinetry in the Low Countries:
#1 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Who has the authority to declare that all attempts at forming a government have failed, so there need to be new elections? Can the Queen do that? Does she need support from (some or all of the) leaders of the major parties to do it? Does a certain amount of time have to elapse since the June election before a new election can be considered?

Or can this carry on forever?

#2 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 03:21 PM:

So Ab Klink, Ad Koppejan, and Kathleen Ferrier decided the problem was bad enough that they needed to drive a stake through the negotiations to ensure that Geert Wilder didn't participate in Government? Does this carry some risk to their political careers? Not in terms of votes (ISTR they are elected at-large, yes?), but in other ways?

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 03:30 PM:

Klink, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport

...assisted by Secretary Schultz?

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 03:31 PM:

jim @1:
Who has the authority to declare that all attempts at forming a government have failed, so there need to be new elections?

I don't actually know. I suspect it's the Queen, but that her job is to declare what's staring everyone in the face rather than to make a surprising proclamation. Mind you, at this stage of affairs, I doubt very much that we'd get a more workable set of MP's out of another election.

I'm sure everyone in the situation is hoping we can glue this thing together for long enough to reach a better national consensus, after which more elections will allow that consensus to be reflected in the government. I expect whatever government is formed will plod along while a firestorm of debate rages in the press. (Considering Dutch bluntness, this will be hair-raising.)

jnh @2:
Does this carry some risk to their political careers?

Depends whether they're seen as deep-sixing negotiations that should have succeeded or protecting the CDA from an alliance that was too far against its—and the Netherlands'—principles.

I reckon that the idea that you do the right thing and damn the consequences will pay off for them in the long run, however exasperated their colleagues may be with them in the short term.

#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 04:09 PM:


#6 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 04:35 PM:

abi #4: Time to start feeding Wilders more rope? And maybe boosting some of the friendlier small parties?

#7 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 04:51 PM:

I'm only mildly disappointed that this post isn't, actually, a stunning TELL ALL reveal of low standards in Dutch carpentry, especially in the construction of home storage furnishings.

#8 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 04:57 PM:

A quick translation of (what I perceive to be) some of the essence of Ab Klink's letter:

"It is likely that soon there will be at every turn only a very narrow parliamentary majority in the House. [...] In addition, this majority would come to be with a controversial political manoeuvre. The support in our own party, and indeed in society, will be vulnerable from the very beginning. This is worrying. While the agreement would bind together three parties in parliament, the policy should also be able to bind society at large. I truly wonder, however, whether this is possible when the Freedom Party will constantly challenge the government's motives and will propagate conflicting goals."

He then gave some practical examples of where the CDA and the PVV could have a similar procedures regarding immigration and integration, but wildly different motives behind those procedures (inclusive motives for the CDA; fiercely exclusive for the PVV) He then concluded:

"The deeper layer of motives matters in politics, as that is precisely where the legitimacy of the policy is found and where the persuasiveness towards society must be realized. In this sense governing is more than a [party] line; it represents an attitude.
This is not to say that strong measures in asylum and migration, in integration and criminal law are nonsensical, quite the contrary. That's not the problem. The problem lies with the intentions behind the actual policy, and those do -unfortunately, probably- have an influence on the policy, on the persuasiveness of politics and on the relationships within society."

In short: All in all, an intelligent letter (although not my particular political flavour). Political suicide? I think not.

(IANATranslator, my translation is twice distorted: firstly through my own reading, secondly through my lack of knowledge concerning the correct political argot)

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 04:58 PM:

heresiarch @7:

Sadly, or rather, not at all sadly, there is a strong tradition of craftsmanship in Dutch culture. Shoddy workmanship is not tolerated with a shrug and a "well, whatcha gonna do?" like it is in, say, Britain*. (Well, apart from that electrician we had round earlier this summer. He was pretty crap.)

Besides, most of the storage furnishings one sees around are Swedish. If you Know what i mEAn.

* Do. Not. Get. Me. Started. on the subject of British builders.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 05:08 PM:

It looks to me as if Wilders's inability to compromise is liable to keep him in opposition. It also looks to me as if that is precisely what he wants. The aggrieved martyr pose suits him just fine. Pim Fortuyn he isn't.

#11 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 05:13 PM:

abi @ 9: "Sadly, or rather, not at all sadly, there is a strong tradition of craftsmanship in Dutch culture."

Which is exactly why a juicy story uncovering the opposite would be so interesting!

Though I am glad that your cabinets are well-made. I recently moved and mine are, um, not. (They hang slightly open, tempting the cat within, who then proceeds to paw weakly at them for fifteen minutes before finally making it out. *scritch* CLUNK *scritch* CLUNK *scritch* CLUNK, usually in the middle of the night.)

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 05:39 PM:

abi, how familiar would you expect the average Dutch citizen to be with the concept of online trolls? It occurs to me that if enough people would be, then something like a letter to the editor pointing out the number of troll tropes he uses might be a small push toward changing some people's perceptions of him. (Not his hard-core supporters, of course, but some of the folks in the middle who may have been snowed.)

More generally: it strikes me that calling the PVV the "Freedom Party" is a dirty semantic trick right up there with Faux News claiming to be "fair and balanced". I suppose it's too late to counter it now, though.

#13 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 05:50 PM:

Lee @12

PVV stands for Partij voor de Vrijheid, literally 'Party for Freedom', more fluently 'Freedom Party'. So not just a dirty semantic trick, but a dirty ideological trick to boot.

#14 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:07 PM:

"Produced in a household that contains cheese."

Wait, has Wilders demanded that immigrant households should be regularly inspected to see if their members are willing enough to integrate to have yellow cheese at home?

jnh @2, well, in the worst case they could be left of all their party's electoral lists in the future (which would mean that they would never get elected to parliament again), but I don't know enough about the CDA to know whether that is likely.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:09 PM:

Someone should set up, to serve as a reference for trolling in all its forms.

I suppose that for the PVV, that's freedom for the right people.

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:09 PM:

Raphael #14: Edam it, that's a Gouda point.

#17 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:12 PM:

I chedder to think how the puns are going to ripen.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:21 PM:

It's stilton early to worry about that.

#19 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 06:24 PM:

I don't know jack about political cheeses.

#20 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 07:12 PM:

Wilders is just trying to gjet everybody's goat.

#21 ::: 17catherines ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 07:39 PM:

Taking a quick break from all the un-feta-ed punning, I can't help noting that in Australia people are complaining like mad because the hung parliament has lasted *two weeks*...

#22 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 07:41 PM:

Klink made it goudand clear he wasn't going to get chevre'd around.

#23 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 08:17 PM:

What a pity to see the Netherlands caught between a Roquefort and a hardtack.

#24 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 11:55 PM:

The need to turn a serious European political thread into a series of cheesy puns must be uniquely American.

#25 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 12:49 AM:

Jon @ #24 - I'd say you're not quite correct; the topic like European politics is not privileged - *everything* is fair game for a series of puns.

Crazy(and feeling woeful that she's missed the opportunity for working a cheese pun into this response - must. get. more. COFFEE)Soph

#26 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 12:57 AM:

English-language reports that on Saturday, Labour leader Job Cohen said his party would be willing to join a coalition, and to draw up a cabinet with Mark Rutte of VVD. They're saying many people are guessing VVD, Labour, CDA, though they say the Telegraaf thinks it's likely now that the CDA members are dissing Wilders.

There's no indication as to whether green cheese will be left in the coalition.

#27 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 01:39 AM:

I'm hearing reports of a minority coalition with VVD, CDA, D66 & Groen Links. At this point, I'm not at all sure PvDA deserves to be part of a coalition.

(@abi -- if you think Dutch building craftsmanship standards are high, then British must be awful. Just spent a year in nieuwbouw Hell, where Dutch craftsmanship is completely in line with their Cabinetry skills so far...)

#28 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:17 AM:

spoons don't come long enough

[starry-eyed adoration over here] ♥

#29 ::: TrishB ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 03:00 AM:

Is it odd that when I see a phrase like "failures of cabinetry," that my mind envisions kitchens, furniture, and built-ins falling down? Or is this because my family has a history of cabinet making?

#30 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 06:36 AM:

Wilders wants to tax headscarves. Because women in headscarves are a threat to our way of life.

#31 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 06:42 AM:

abi @9: Shoddy workmanship is not tolerated with a shrug and a "well, whatcha gonna do?" like it is in, say, Britain

We're great compromisers! Well, we're compromisers.

And to show for it, we've got a coalition! Of toffs and austerity fetishists. Good enough for government work, as they say.

#32 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 08:01 AM:

heresiarch @ 11, the paw-clunk in my house is the cat attempting to get in the under-sink cabinet, which she does every night at 10 sharp. She gets out again more quietly.

It sounds like I would rather have my cat and your cat negotiating for cabinet entry than Wilders. Particularly because my cat does nothing in the cabinet but sit quietly. (I've checked. I don't know why she wants in there so bad.)

#33 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 09:46 AM:

CrazySoph, I was just thinking about you and composing in my head a comment asking if you'd been heard from. Good to see you.

#34 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 10:11 AM:

Caroline @32:
She is quietly hiding from the cat vampires. Duh!

#35 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 11:03 AM:

Cats feel safer in cabinets than outside. In this they're like politicians. Cats feel safer in closets, too. In this they're like politicians. Cats like to get into drawers. In this ....

#36 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 11:29 AM:

I find it fascinating that the Dutch appear to be reasonably comfortable with the fact that they currently have a non-functioning Government, and bluntly admit the status quo, whereas Americans seem to be determined to pretend that we do have a functioning (or effective) Majority.

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Klink's out of the Tweede Kamer, but remains a member of the CDA. Koopejan and Ferrier retain their seats.

I suspect Klink was given the choice of keeping his seat or keeping his party membership. Considering how little time there is likely to be before the next set of elections (formation time* + time before the new government collapses†), losing his seat is a short-term disadvantage. And being both right-wing and anti-Wilders on principled grounds won't hurt him in the long run.

The Queen is holding consultations on how to proceed with cabinet formation. The rumor is that Rutte will write a platform and take it round looking for support‡, but that might be just speculation.
* might be rather long, admittedly
† probably fairly short
‡ there's a precedent; Kok did that in 1994, apparently (which led to the Purple coalition)

#38 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:04 PM:

How many failed attempts does it take before the center-left and the center-right are willing to compromise and form a coalition because at least neither of them is Wilders?

#39 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:47 PM:

I bet the Queen's advisers are trying to figure that out right this minute.

According to VVD leader Rutte, though, Wilders "has the keys to right-wing collaboration in his hands". (No English-language source for this, sorry; here's the Dutch).

On the one hand, this could be because he thinks he can still get the PVV and the now-chastened CDA into government with him. On the other (more likely), he could want to be seen to blame the failure to come to agreement now on the PVV so he can work with the CDA in the next round.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:50 PM:

I find myself wondering whose novels this reminds me of most. There's a Brustian feeling of complicated capers, a Zelazny-esque layering of twists and motivations, and all the subtle characterization of a Mike Ford novel.

(Any other suggestions?)

#41 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:54 PM:

Jim@35 :-). One of my previous cats was good at getting into cabinet drawers, though the current ones aren't. In a previous house, I had a closet that was about 3 feet wide and six or eight feet deep, and my cat at the time would go in there, past the laundry basket, and get lost and have to meow for help getting back out. (That house was built in 1931 and actually did have quite nice cabinet work - oak floors, chestnut moldings, a little door added later that matched the other molding and provided access to the plumbing of the bathtub, and a few later New Jersey touches like Bruce Springsteen's picture painted on the basement wall...)

#42 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:57 PM:

Abi, a Brustian feeling of complicated capers would probably also include olive oil, several kinds of peppers, goslingroot, and some spice that Mr. Valabar adds that Vlad hasn't quite figured out yet...

#43 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 02:58 PM:

Oh, and knives. Lots of knives.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 03:01 PM:

By the way, I'm actually quite happy with the lack of a government in the Netherlands just at the moment, and not displeased with a fragile, heavily compromised one for the next year or two.

Basically, I am not in favor of British-style deep cuts in public expenditure, which a right wing coalition was going to engage in. Unlike the US, we probably don't need a boost in public spending. What we need to do is hang tight, keep the safety net intact, and ride this phase of the crisis out on our very sound economic fundamentals.

Government paralysis will not turn us into Greece. A tight, unified government might very well turn us into Ireland.

There are things we need to do—mortgage interest tax relief should probably go, for instance—but this cabinet-formation mess is better for us than one would think.

#45 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 04:13 PM:

abi@44: That government is best which governs not at all?

(More in Thoreau than in anger?)

#46 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 04:18 PM:

abi @44, on the advantages of a fragile government--

There were state assembly elections (Landtag) in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, this spring. The Christian Democrats + Free Democrats (LibDems) had led a coalition government since 2005, but this time, there was literally an even split between the two most prominent parties, the CDems and the Social Democrats.

Building a government took forever. Actually, I think it took about 9 weeks, but it felt like more. We now have a Social Dem/Green minority coalition (i.e., they do not have more than 50% of the seats). The current SocDem Ministerpräsidentin, Hannelore Kraft, seriously considered not going into coalition and staying in opposition. One OpEd piece made a very interesting observation about this possibility; namely, that the ensuing struggles that could be expected would be a more honest confrontation with the very real differences in different segments of the state.

Seeing how things are going so far with this minority government, I am skeptical, but it's a worthwhile idea.

#47 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 05:16 PM:

chris @38, problem is, the VVD apparently has less of a problem with Wilders than with the center-left.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 07:40 PM:

Maybe it's just me, but 'VVD' makes me think of social diseases.

#49 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 08:02 PM:

Could be worse; they could make you think of a vuvudzela.

#50 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 09:16 PM:

Bill Stewart @ #41, "and a few later New Jersey touches like Bruce Springsteen's picture painted on the basement wall...)"

Quoting S&G: "And the words of the prophet are written on the subway wall"

Seriously, that's wonderful.

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2010, 10:30 PM:

re 7: My immediate reaction was "one of Abi's bookcases collapsed?"

#52 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 01:28 AM:

Linkmeister@50, yeah, we kind of enjoyed it, and it was the right years for Bruce. It was next to a bar that looked like it was either trying to be rustic or tiki, we weren't really sure, but we ended up using the basement for storage and workshop rather than entertainment, so the only party that was actually held on it was by a couple of mice who got into my garden seeds.

When we moved West, we ended up selling the house to my neighbor, who was a shop teacher at a local community college and made stunningly good cabinetry himself, along with violins and other high-precision woodworking.

#53 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 01:33 AM:

Looks like cabinetry Down Under has finally worked itself out: Labor will have a minority government supported by just enough of the independents.

#54 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 01:53 AM:

I've never been able to get Dutch pronunciation right, but is "PVV" pronounced like blowing a raspberry?

#55 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 04:25 AM:

€1000 headscarf tax? Well, it's a little much for the right to wear Hermes, but I suppose one could stretch to it...

#56 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 05:02 AM:

Serge @48, and then there's another Dutch party named D66- a fairly middle-of-the-road left-liberal/left-leaning center party, which is weird, since "D66" sounds more like the name of an anarchist cell or a French hip-hop group than like the name of something as mainstream as a centrist political party to me.

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 06:48 AM:

Raphael #56: Actually, it sounds to me like... a road, or rather a highway. American "interstate" highways have designations like I-66, why shouldn't Dutch highways have "D-66"?

#58 ::: Vlad ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 07:39 AM:

Get your kicks on D-66. I like it!

#59 ::: marrije ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 09:42 AM:

@Bill Stewart, #54: Regrettably, "PVV" doesn't actually sound like a raspberry. It's pronounced "pay-vay-vay".

I'm going to let Abi or PPK explain what is happening today, because it's getting crazier and crazier, and we're all worrying about the Queen's sanity by now.

#60 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 10:15 AM:

Isn't "D66" a designator for dinosaur sodomy?

(I'm sorry; I'm badly sleep-deprived and my mind is skittering.)

#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 10:57 AM:

Bill, #54: Whether it is or not, it should be!

#62 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 11:08 AM:

Joel Polowin@60: D66 is a rather specialized (and expensive) die used in obscure gaming systems :-) .

#63 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 12:05 PM:

Yeah, those would be the ones that have rules for dinosaur sodomy. The people who play them write filk songs like "The ankylosaur can never be buggered at all."

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 04:13 PM:

From what I can gather from both Dutch-language (complicated, breathless, full of synonyms for "disaster" and "farce") and English-language (generally half a day behind Dutch sources) reports, the Tweede Kamer has had a debate about the cabinet formation farce/disaster.

Meanwhile, all three right-wing parties profess themselves willing to go back to the negotiating table now that that troublesome Klink is out of the way. I still think—or hope—that they're all looking for a way to blame someone else for the final disintegration of their formation attempt. Negotiating for the blame, rather than the power.

I think. I hope.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 04:26 PM:

abi @ 64... full of synonyms for "disaster" and "farce"

That in itself sounds like the premise for a farce starring the late Louis de Funès.

#66 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 05:30 PM:

Huh...the Queen has just now appointed another informateur, the vice-president of her Council of State, Herman Tjeenk Willink. This despite the fact that a majority of the Tweede Kamer voted to allow the VVD, CDA and PVV more time to work on a coalition agreement.

The headline on (a good middle-of-the-road Dutch news website) right now? Koningin negeert wens meederheid kamer, the Queen ignores the wishes of the majority of Parliament. If they're saying it...

I can only imagine that either the Queen, after private talks with the leaders of all three parties, thinks there really is no chance of a coalition (and wants to speed things up rather than waiting to see who's left holding the blame for it falling apart)...or she thinks there is a chance of one, but that the PVV now has too much of the upper hand and will get more than she's comfortable with out of the deal.

I suspect the first, but I bet Wilders' supporters will tend toward the second.

#67 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 06:38 PM:

So, there's a full-blown constitutional crisis now? After all the time of "formation is taking long, but that's perfectly normal, no need to panic", things have changed to "ok, you can panic now"?

From abi's reports and marrije's "worrying about the Queen's sanity" comment, it sounds to me as if the Queen made a critical mistake by overestimating how much authority (as in "status", not as in "legal authority") she commands.

#68 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 07:09 PM:

I read "worrying about the Queen's sanity" as meaning that the people were afraid her head was going to explode from the pressure, not that they were thinking she was behaving irrationally.

#69 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 12:52 AM:

It's sounds to me as if the finger-pointing is about to start in earnest, and everyone involved is checking to make sure that they're wearing gloves while pointing, in case they should end up holding the bag containing a large scoop of flaming dog crap.

#70 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 04:50 AM:

abi #44:

I am finding it interesting to see your use of the word "government," which sometimes means "the coalition currently running things," and sometimes means "all that plus the functioning bureaucracy which keeps things running." Sometimes it also includes the courts, but not always.

I think this difference in meanings comes out in the US in the phrase "keep the government out of Medicare." If government means "the coalition running things in the US, aka the Democrats," it makes sense. If government means everything ultimately paid for by taxes, it's nonsensical. I'd always just parsed this statement before as being silly, but now I think I get it.

This is relatively common. For example, nearly all of the libertarian/free market arguments for deregulation really amounts to moving from rules applied in advance by part of a bureaucracy paid for by taxes to rules applied after a complaint has been made by judges paid for by taxes. There are arguments that make sense in both directions there, but it's easy for both sides of the argument to miss the fact that they agree on the need for government (the taxpayer-funded organization with recourse to force to enforce its decisions) to be involved.

#71 ::: Auke ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 06:30 AM:

Abi@66: It seems to me that the explanation of why this happened could be somewhat simpler. The Queen knew that the majority of Parliament (probably, CDA, VVD, PVV and likely the SGP) wanted to continue negotiations. However, immediately acknowledging this might have been seen as an implicit acknowledgement that her role in the formation is nothing but a formality, especially after previous informateur Lubbers was ordered to form a majority coalition, and was then conveniently ignored by CDA, VVD and PVV who went for a minority coalition with PVV support almost immediately. In this way, the queen does not lose face, and I would be surprised (but not dismayed) if negotiations between CDA, VVD and PVV wouldn't start again on Friday - which would seem to be the obvious advice of informateur Tjeenk Willink.

#72 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 10:57 AM:

albatross: I don't get that from abi at 44. I see her talking about the folks making the decisions about how the other things are done.

I don't see the courts involved at all.

Mind you, when I see Libertarians talking about things, I don't see them being so fond of the courts, in practice, as they imply they are in theory (e.g. punitive damages, they are; by and large, against them. The job of a judge is merely to enforce the contract made, no more, no less).

It's a hard call to get one to admit to the real need for any specific bit of gov't. When pressed on any specific thing (courts, fire depts. safety standards, police, roads, etc.) they say, "well,the Free Market can do it better.

Seriously, I saw one touting the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as being an example of the wrong lesson drawn. What was needed was less regulation; and more employer power, so the smoke breaks which caused the owner to lock the fire escape wouldn't have been happening.

But now we all have to suffer the extra expense caused by the busybodies who don't understand it was all the workers fault.

Yeah, that's just one person, but I keep seeing a lot of single people, saying a lot of the same sorts of things. It's jaded me.

#73 ::: Marrije ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 12:50 PM:

I'm glad Mary Aileen #64, said it better than me - yes, that's what I meant (and put down rather unelegantly): worry *for* the Queen, who seems to me one of the most sensible people in this whole mess (but I am biased). Yesterday I was semi-afraid her head was indeed going to explode, now that she's recruited Tjeenk Willink (another very sensible person) I hope things will get slightly better. It all makes for lots of interesting television, and very involved discussions at home & at work!

#74 ::: RobW ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 07:23 PM:

If government means "the coalition running things in the US, aka the Democrats," it makes sense. If government means everything ultimately paid for by taxes, it's nonsensical. I'd always just parsed this statement before as being silly, but now I think I get it.

No, you had it right the first time; it was incredibly silly. From the moment the phrase first appeared, it's been a national joke, something to point to as a demonstration of the tea partiers' essential silliness.

In the US, the word "government" really does mean everything paid for with tax dollars, the legislatures, administrations, the courts, etc. at every level from local to federal.

When reading about, say, UK politics, I still have to remind myself that to people who live with parliamentary systems or constitutional monarchies the word refers to the party currently in control of the apparatus of state and not that apparatus itself.

#75 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 07:32 PM:

When reading about, say, UK politics, I still have to remind myself that to people who live with parliamentary systems or constitutional monarchies the word refers to the party currently in control of the apparatus of state and not that apparatus itself.

Actually, in the UK, the "government" means the executive. So it's not the party in charge, it's the ministers (that is, one isn't part of the government just by virtue of being a Conservative or Liberal Democrat MP). The government of the UK consists of around a hundred people.

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 08:00 PM:

I heard an excellent example of this UK/US disconnect on the BBC recently. A BBC interviewer was talking to a US soldier (I think it was) in Iraq, and remarked that there was no government there. The soldier corrected him, saying there certainly was.

Well, in the UK sense, no one has formed a "government." In the US sense, "there's no government" means the country has collapsed into anarchy, which of course would mean the Army utterly failed to prevent such a collapse. You can imagine why the soldier was offended!

The Beeb really should train their people to understand these little dialect differences.

#77 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 10:37 PM:

SeanH@75, in the US, the Executive Branch isn't just the Administration (i.e. the President and Vice President and their ministers, political advisors, staff, and unindicted co-conspirators), it's everything that isn't the Legislative or Judicial branches, so it's the military and almost all of the civil service except the few staff and bureaucrats who work for Congress and the court systems.

#78 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2010, 12:22 PM:

And, of course, for right-wingers in the USA, "government" usually means everything paid for by taxes, except for the military (and perhaps some other security-related agencies). Sometimes I think of the very fact that .gov and .mil are different top level domains as a form of silly pandering to US right wing delusions.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 03:00 PM:

Well, to my great disappointment, all of the papers are now starting to talk about a right-wing cabinet as a strong possibility.

Apparently everyone studiously avoided Wilders' speech on 9/11, while he himself toned it down from his usual level of discourse. So now he's clean enough to be in politics with.

I still think he's een paling in een emmer snot, and I hope fervently that the CDA either blows up the negotiations or falls apart shortly after the coalition is confirmed.

Further news as events warrant.

#80 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 04:35 PM:

abi #79: een paling in een emmer snot

Is that as bad as the last word sounds, or can you translate?

#81 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 04:45 PM:

joann @80:

I translate it in the second footnote on the original post: it means "an eel in a bucket of snot." The Dutch really do good idioms.

#82 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 05:04 PM:

abi #81:

Sounds like you're being Slimed.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 05:09 PM:

abi @ 81...

"Slick as snot."
"The translator microbes must have gotten that one wrong."
- an exchange between Farscape's Crichton & Aeryn

#84 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 07:20 PM:

I'd type it as "een palin(g) in een emmer snot" but that might be considered a cheap shot which takes unfair advantage of a coincidence. heh.

#85 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2010, 11:49 AM:

Earl@84: That's an insult to the eel. :-)

#86 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:39 AM:

So. Wikipedia says that today is the day for the Queen's Speech setting out her government's policy. Queen can haz government?

#87 ::: Cadbury Moose suspects Polish linkspam ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:44 AM:

Post #87 looks suspiciously boilerplate like.

#88 ::: Debbie spots very polite spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:45 AM:

But spam, nonetheless.

#89 ::: Raphael sees what looks like it might be spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 11:03 AM:

Weird- did the spammer steal the username of a real commenter? If so, that's a new level I haven't heard of yet.

#90 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 11:33 AM:

Well, if it did, the name is all it took: View-all-by only shows that single post.

(On other matters, do you ever find that when you've just been reading Shakespeare's verse the rhythms seep into the things you type?)

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.