Prince Henrik’s Fly16 January 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
The mayor of Moerdijk, a Dutch council, announced that he will resign this summer after 2.5 years in the job, even though he had been appointed for a six year period. Continuing to work past his 65th birthday apparently would reduce his monthly pension by 1000 euros. He had only just made this announcement when a large local chemical factory burned down to the ground. You could conclude: it is time to pay. (You’ll have to wait for the story of the fly.)
Moerdijk’s mayor resembles a Michelin inspector. Yet suddenly he had become a national figure. The mayor declared that he didn’t know exactly what was stored in the chemical factory but tests had revealed that it was harmless.
A few days later the truth turned out to be somewhat different. The mayor of Breda, a larger neighbouring town, took over. Besides he had a far more suitable mournful face compared to the candid mayor of Moerdijk. Because when a disaster strikes, even when there are no casualties, a tragic demeanour is essential.
Subsequently the mayor of Dordrecht appeared centre stage. Dordrecht had taken the full brunt of the fire’s smoke and ash. Mr Brok, Dordrecht’s mayor looked grief-stricken; yet when paying close attention you saw him wet his lips after every few words.
It is only after a local disaster that a Dutch mayor finds fame. There is one bright point in the light of a disaster, the mayor’s spouse does not attend. ‘One disaster is more than enough,’ is our verdict at home.
A spouse just makes an appearance during festivities. She will be wearing a hat. Unfortunately she is not used to wearing a hat. The mayor’s spouse is actually too much of a presence. She hampers dignitaries from all sides complete with a huge hat.
Back to the disaster; the mayor in question almost busts of vanity but says little.
I have developed a theory about it; Dutch mayors are appointed a bit like most English mayors. An appointed mayor has a mostly ceremonial role. Indeed, he chairs the council and councillors’ committees, and is responsible for public order, however he hasn’t been elected. His experience tells him to calm things down. Yet after a disaster or a terrorist attack you need to act.
That is why I am in favour of an elected mayor. An appointed mayor’s aim is to smooth things over whereas an elected mayor searches for solutions.
I only know one mayor in England, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. He has been directly elected. There are only a few other mayors like him in England. And in so far as I can judge, it works for London.
There is one thing worse than being appointed: being born into a position like royalty. Or of course marry into a role. Recently at the New Year’s reception, Danish Prince Henrik stood as usual next to Queen Margrethe. Unfortunately his fly was undone and no one dared to point this out to him.
Recently, Job Cohen, formerly mayor of Amsterdam, became the leader of the largest opposition party in the Dutch Second Chamber. Actually he is still performing his mayoral role. Therefore he thinks it a bit odd if someone corrects him. (‘Job, your fly is undone.’) Besides he doesn’t dare to speak his mind. (Well, no, yours is.’)
Elected persons do make mistakes but the electorate will vote them out. However a voter understands that a politician has to take his chances. It is something a good politician knows.
You are not used to it when you are appointed by central government; then it is a matter of make no mistakes, calm things down because before you know it they send you on gardening leave. The mayor of Moerdijk left on his own accord. He couldn’t handle it, ‘physically nor mentally’. He has come to this conclusion quite late in his career.
Royalty and appointed mayors can provide comfort. To sort things out you need politicians. Besides, you can simply tell a politician: ‘For heaven’s sake, do up your fly!’
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
You can leave your comment on our forum.
Tell a friend
Back to magazine
Magazine archiveJune 2013
NewsAngel & King of Tuzla featured in Litro
24 January 2011
This month Litro celebrates Dutch authors
Find out more
Living under Fire competition
01 January 2011
Find out more
Workshop with Arnold Jansen op de Haar
02 January 2011
Celebrating Dutch Poetry Day 2011
Find out more