How Dutch is Nick Clegg?
The leader of the Lib Dems has a Dutch mother. He speaks Dutch fluently. In fact I do not know of many Dutch people who speak English as well as Nick Clegg speaks Dutch. This means he gets a lot of goodwill in The Netherlands. Dutch people are rather chauvinistic, so they have adopted him, he is now more or less our ‘Nick Clegg’.
Nick Clegg is in favour of moving towards proportional representation or in other words more towards the Dutch electoral system. Dutch parliamentary history is one endless succession of hung parliaments. For a long time, this fact didn’t pose any problem at all. Parties simply arranged themselves into a coalition, often consisting of two or three parties. Everything was directed as much as possible according to the verdict of the electorate. In the 1990’s this was known as the ‘polder’ solution, in tribute to the fact that for centuries it has been all hands on deck in The Netherlands to prevent the sea taking over the country.
Well, something very odd is happening. The sea level rises alarmingly but we Dutch are much less able to come to an agreement. In the past ten years, the political landscape has been broken up. Like everywhere else in the Western World, we have to deal with an increasing number of floating voters. According to the most recent polls, after the forthcoming election, we will need at least four parties to form a coalition. This makes it that much harder to take the severe measures essential to combat the financial crisis. Each party, after all, has to keep its own electorate sweet.
Actually something even more bizarre is happening. The Dutch equivalent of the Lib Dems is D66 (Democrats 1966). My old friend W. has been a key figure in this party’s leadership for years. I am not a supporter of D66 but I do like the limited constituency model this party advocates. They aim to bring the politicians closer to the man in the street. According to me, an additional advantage is that this would mean that politicians with radical views such as Geert Wilders, would only be able to win just a few constituencies.
Last week I happened to come upon a shop in my home town Arnhem, which sold my beloved HP ‘Brown’ sauce. I made immediately the association: ‘Hung Parliament Sauce’. Since my purchase I have prepared a cooked English breakfast for at least six times. So maybe the question isn’t quite: ‘How Dutch is Nick Clegg?’ but rather: ‘How British am I?’ My sister has been living in England for the past twenty eight years, does this count?