Watching the Dutch Elections

The Dutch Elections for the Second Chamber (House of Commons) on 15th March 2017 will be an important indicator of the political mood in mainland Europe.

The current leader, Mark Rutte, VVD is under siege because Dutch Democracy is not working and because his party is haemorrhaging members: A referendum in 2005 (the first in 200 years) rejected the EU constitution with a clear majority, but the government ratified it anyway. A public petition leading to another referendum in 2015 overwhelmingly rejected the EU association agreement with Ukraine. It was ignored because it had already been signed. The Dutch Legal System is also not working: In 2010 the authorities tried to prosecuted Gert Wilders PVV for Islamophobia but the case was thrown out when the judges tried tampering with witnesses. More recently they tried prosecuting him for anti-Moroccan Immigration; the prosecution was successful, but no sentence was ever handed down. Instead, the country was left with a case law forbidding the promotion of anti-immigration policies.

The Netherlands has 20 electoral districts with 31 parties fielding candidates for 150 seats. Voters have one vote, and the most popular candidates win; almost certainly leading to a coalition government. As there are several seats per constituency, there is little sense of being represented in the Second Chamber – the real sense of representation is with Local Counsellors (or Ministers) who do an exceeding good job with Local Governance. The main parties in 2012 order are as follows:-

VVD (Liberal Democrat, a self-styled Liberal Party) fielding 80 candidates, bookie’s odds 3/1. The issues:-

  • Security and Income
  • Pensions
  • Care and Health
  • Safety and Freedom
  • Immigration and Integration
  • The future…

PvdA (Labour, a self-styled Social Democrat Party) fielding 75 candidates, bookie’s odds 50/1. The issues:-

  • The right to a decent life
  • Solidarity and togetherness
  • Local governance
  • Selective and sustainable growth
  • A versatile and democratic constitution
  • Freedom and rights
  • Community empowerment
  • Other…

PVV (Liberal Party) fielding 50 candidates, bookie’s odds 2/9. The issues:-

  • Anti-Islam
  • Anti-EU
  • Direct democracy
  • Abolish private healthcare
  • Lower rents
  • Cap state pension age at 65 and index link existing pensions
  • No more subsidies for research, windfarms, art, innovation, media, etc.
  • Reverse cuts in homecare, care for the aged; increase healthcare workers
  • Robust extra spending on Police and Defence
  • Lower income taxation
  • Halve vehicle tax

SP (Socialist Party, former Communist Party) fielding 25 candidates. The issues:-

  • Social inclusion, e.g. reducing student debt.
  • Tackling social inequality, especially wealth, but also social mobility and care inequality.
  • A country of cooperation, not competition. Reducing social differences and allowing every opinion to count.

CDA (Christian Democrats, formed from merging the anti-Revolutionaries, Historic Christian Democrats and the Catholic Peoples Parties) fielding 50 candidates, bookie’s odds 25/1. The issues:-

  • Traditional values
  • A strong society
  • Family values
  • Mutual support

D66 (1966 Democrats, a Social Liberal Party) fielding 50 candidates. “Opportunites for everyone” The Issues:-

  • Fight divisions to the core
  • Clean Economy: Netherlands leads the way
  • A fair chance to work for all
  • Care with and for each other
  • Self-determination
  • A strong Netherlands in a strong Europe
  • A robust rule of law
  • Public finance: investment, balanced budget

CU (Christian Union, a Christian Party formed from merging the Reformed Political League and the Reformed Political Federation) fielding 50 candidates. The issues:-
Driven by God’s love and Christ’s kingship, the Christian Union is committed to society and the governance of our country. It recognizes that government is given by God and in His service able to do justice and freedom and protect peace worldwide. The Christian Union bases its political principles in the Bible, God’s inspired and authoritative Word. Its members unite from the Christian faith, as concisely expressed in the Nicene Creed. – The CU is generally supportive of the EU

GL (Green Left, formed from a fusion of Catholic Radicals, Pacifists, Communists & Evangelists) fielding 40 candidates. The issues:-

  • Green investing
  • New leveling (e.g. by raising dividend tax, wealth tax & inheritance tax; and reducing income disparities)
  • Promising education
  • Modern solidarity
  • A unified society
  • A pleasant life
  • Democracy
  • A just world

SGP (Politically Reformed Party, of orthodox Protestant Calvinists) fielding 30 candidates. The issues:-

  • For a Christian Netherlands
  • For the family
  • Pro-life
  • For each other
  • For Sunday rest
  • For safety
  • For responsible freedom
  • For a sustainable environment
  • For Israel
  • For a healthy economy

PvdD (Animal Rights) fielding 50 candidates. They have a statement on nearly every possible issues; the main headings being:-

  • Animal husbandry, agriculture and food
  • Nature, biodiversity and wildlife
  • Climate, energy and environment
  • Fish, marine ecosystems and fisheries
  • Pets, stray animals and animal trade
  • Animal experiments and biotechnology
  • Animals for entertainment and fashion
  • Society and ethics
  • International (e.g. on EU migration, they’re anti-discrimination, but pro immigration control)
  • Economy and work
  • Social care
  • Education, culture and media
  • Security, law and privacy
  • Government
  • Housing & Planning

50PLUS (a Party for the over 50’s) fielding 40 candidates. No ideological views; but:-

  • The retirement age back to 65 years.
  • Retirement ceiling is stopped. maintaining the current pension system. No discounts of pensions or index.
  • Stop cuts in care for the elderly: hands off of homecare. More recognition and money for home-helpers.
  • Employment Offensive-45s also tax. Relieve employers in hiring seniors. Abolishing extra days off for seniors, so they are extra expensive.
  • Purchasing power of the elderly, who paid more during years of tax increases and did not benefit from tax reductions, restores and maintains the pace with future employment.
  • Abolition of inheritance tax for children, starting at € 250 000,
  • Introduction of a health insurance in health care. End to the market. Reducing power and cost of health insurance. reduce excess to a maximum of € 200,
  • A toilet In all trains.
  • Economical travel by public transport elderly outside rush. On all platforms, bus and tram seating for the elderly and disabled.
  • Police Departments and local police officers are reflected in all areas.
  • 50PLUS is critical in favour of joining the EU and the euro, but does not want us to pay for mismanagement and deficit countries.
  • Strict but fair policy on refugees. Netherlands provides for real emergencies proportionally contribute. Economic refugees are sent back. better monitor borders.
  • The Dutch passport shall be provided to newcomers after a residence period of ten years. Requirements: a municipal ‘certificate of good conduct, “complete mastery of the Dutch language and to lay down a declaration of allegiance to the Dutch Constitution.
  • Age discrimination should be deleted out of all laws and regulations, national and local.
  • Municipal older coaches help voluntarily seniors with internet among others, language, administration.

As in all Politics, the issues are mainly local (but sometimes with a global outreach or impact). No one has so far mentioned reducing bureaucracy or red-tape; in the Netherlands, bureaucracy is an industry in itself. A coalition of smaller parties (CU, D66, 50PLUS) have spoken out in favour of the EU and the Euro; but a greater number have shown a concern for border control, immigration and integration. Only Gert Wilders’ PVV has been stridently anti-EU. He will however have difficulty convincing the voters; firstly because the Netherlands has a substantial and well integrated Muslim population who are not going to take kindly to his anti-Islam rhetoric; and secondly because when the more sensible Dutch voter asks how he is going to pay for his policies, I don’t think he will have adequate answers. Even if he does end up the largest party in government, he will not be able to govern because he will have to form a coalition; and none of the other parties are prepared to work with him. A more likely outcome is a much reduced majority for the VVD and a much more complicated and unsustainable coalition.

However, the Nigger in the Woodpile is the FVD (Forum for Democracy), this is a party born out of a plebiscite and fielding 30 candidates. It has never held office before, but it has some of the biggest names in the Military, Business and Academia representing it. This is the only party that is prepared to work with Gert Wilders’ PVV. It’s main issues are:-

  • Destroying the grip of the political elite.
  • Direct democracy
  • Directly elected Minister-president
  • Sovereignty (essential referenda on constitutional issues)
  • Referendum to leave the EU
  • Radical reform of Government, the Tax System and Pension Investment (Inward).
  • A Danish model to support SME’s; and support Director/Shareholders and Freelancers.
  • Radical reform of the Tax System.
  • Internet Privacy
  • Education (along the Finish model).
  • Culture – stop subsidy discrimination.
  • Ensured neutrality of the civil service.
  • Security & Justice – bring back border controls.
  • Restrictive immigration policy (American Green-card model)
  • Increase investment in defence, improve reserves and support defence start-ups.
  • Constructive working with Russia. No more regime change in the Middle East.
  • Healthcare. Reduce red-tape, reduce influence of private insurers.
  • Employment safety-net, work should always pay, stop tax relief for immigrants.
  • Pensions under national supervision. Tax incentives for generation solidarity.
  • Focus on sustainable growth. Investing in energy. Encourage the shared economy.
  • Referenda on CETA and TTIP. Support for the agricultural sector, addressing animal cruelty.

Whatever the outcome, the conversation is definitely shifting to the same concerns that we have: finance, sovereignty, security, immigration & integration. Two parties (PVV & FVD) believe these can only be solved by leaving the EU; but the rest, I think, realize there is a better chance of solving these problems by working within the EU – this will make the next EU elections very interesting indeed. The PVV & FVD may well be able to force a referendum, in exchange for getting some other policies through. (But, leaving the EU is not top of either of their agendas.) And the government could again ignore any referendum results – so once again, leading to instability. – To see the latest comments on Twitter, use the #nexit hash-tag.

A Plea to all MPs that voted Remain

The triggering of Article 50 is not just a procedural step in the UK leaving the EU. Is is of critical importance. According to the wording of the Article, from that moment the UK surrenders all unilateral power to decide its future relationship with either the EU or the Single Market…

Dear MP

I write to you in your capacity as an MP who voted Remain in the Referendum.

May I please ask that, before voting on the triggering of Article 50, you bear in mind the following points:-

1.  The triggering of Article 50 is not just a procedural step in the UK leaving the EU.  Is is of critical importance.  According to the wording of the Article, from that moment the UK surrenders all unilateral power to decide its future relationship with either the EU or the Single Market.

2.  Whatever opportunity is given to either the electorate or Parliament to vote on any finally negotiated Brexit terms, the only possible outcomes will be the endorsement of those terms or their rejection, which will still leave the UK outside both the EU and the Single Market.

3.  The Referendum was expressly Advisory and Consultative (see House of Commons Briefing Paper 07212, section 5), designed to advise but not direct you on your decision.

4.  It has been an established principle, at least since the time of Edmund Burke, that MPs do a disservice to their constituents if they attempt to mirror popular opinion rather than to exercise their own judgment on national issues.  Debates on the death penalty are a clear practical example of proper exercise of judgment contrary to popular opinion.

5.  The recent Supreme Court decision, although based on narrower points of law, reaffirms that parliamentary sovereignty is essentially distinct from popular sovereignty, with the clearest implication that MPs have a positive duty to exercise individual judgment.

6.  With hindsight some Remain MPs may regret having supported the decision to hold a Referendum out of excessive party loyalty.  Please do not compound this error by voting to trigger Article 50 on the same grounds.

7.  MPs have been reflecting on the merits and demerits of the UK in the EU for decades, while the electorate has been subjected to merely a few months of intense and often misleading lobbying.

In all these circumstances, the wisest course would be a postponement of the triggering of Article 50 to allow for a cooling-off period of say two years, during which the electorate would gain a deeper understanding of the likely consequences of Parliament following their advice.  At the end of that period, in a calmer and better informed environment, Parliament should decide on the right course for the UK.  You will not be thanked by the electorate for having taken precipitate, irreversible action if, as is possible, public attitudes to the EU change as understanding deepens.

I urge you not only to exercise your own individual and independent judgment on this crucial issue, but to encourage all your parliamentary colleagues to do so as well.  This is your true duty to the electorate.

What’s The Plan?

What’s The Plan is a campaign that wants answers to 10 Questions before MPs vote on Article 50:

“After thousands of people signed our petition demanding a plan for Brexit, Theresa May finally agreed to producing a White Paper outlining the plan for her negotiations with the EU.

However, despite the ruling that MPs must be allowed to vote before the government triggers Article 50, they’re being asked to do so before a plan is presented. That’s not good enough. Our MPs need to know what they’re voting for otherwise we could be faced with a choice of Mrs May’s bad deal or leaving the EU with no deal at all.

Please write to your MP telling them that you don’t want them allowing the PM to trigger Article 50 before she tells them what they’re getting.

Our 10 Questions:

  1.  Will we stay in the single market?
  2. Will we continue to pay into the EU budget and follow its rules?
  3.  Will we stay in customs union?
  4.  How will EU migration be controlled?
  5.  When can the first new Free Trade Agreements be expected?
  6.  Will there be a transitional period after we quit the EU?
  7.  Will Scotland be given a reason to avoid leaving the UK?
  8.  Will there be controls at the Irish border?
  9.  How do we ensure we can fight cross-border problems such as terrorism, crime and global warming?
  10.  How do we guarantee the NHS, universities, farmers and industry get the talent they need?”

Please visit the What’s the Plan website and support the campaign.

Freedom of Movement Petition

Continue to allow reciprocal freedom of movement with EU member states

Freedom of movement has been a fact of life for Brits and Europeans for many years. It’s a vital source of economic & social mobility for individuals, and one which benefits UK businesses & cuts red tape. Future generations should not be deprived of this right.

More Details

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173365

Challenging the Referendum Threshold

We want the government to explain why there was no threshold in the Referendum

TU strike ballots and countries voting on constitutional matters set a 2/3 majority for change. It’s inconceivable this didn’t have one. Was it because it was advisory, a purely consultative exercise not binding on this or any other government or was it just a careless,omission?

***THIS PETITION HAS NOW CLOSED***

To see the government’s full response, please follow the link below:

“It was agreed that the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union would not have a threshold, but would be a simple majority vote. Both Houses of Parliament passed the EU Referendum Act, which approved this decision, with large majorities and cross-party support.”   >>> More Details

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/164999

Spare a thought for the losers

There is one simple difference between the referendum to leave the EU in 2016 and the vote to join in 1975 that is often overlooked, but is perhaps the most important moral issue of all.

41 years ago there were no tangible losses for the losing side in the sense that there are for millions of people right now.

41 years is a long time during which millions of people used the increasing freedom that EU membership gave them to establish new lives and businesses on either side of the Channel, as well as the North Sea and Irish Sea.  They formed new partnerships, started families, found new customers and friendships.

The losers include over 5 million people who have led their lives on the basis of being European, and now face the prospect of losing the right to live in their homes, to keep their jobs and to keep their children in schools, and to stay among friends they have known all their lives.

The losers aren’t just London’s bankers and lawyers, but countless small companies and self-employed people in small towns and villages throughout Kent and all over the UK, who provide a wide range of services to clients on the continent. Without the right to work freely in other EU countries, they are now threatened with anything from a 10-25% loss in turnover for some, to a total collapse of their business model for others, as their home market shrinks from half a billion to 65 million.

The losers also includes millions of Brits who never left the UK, but have benefited from a great variety of rights and standards that the political establishment in the UK was often unwilling to grant- especially in matters of environmental health, such as legislation that prohibits the use of potentially harmful additives in food.

Having so many losers puts the lawfulness of the entire referendum into question. Is it ever really democratic to have a vote about destroying people’s rights and lives?

 

Add Euro Indexation to the State Pension triple-lock

► Stop the growing disparity between private pensioners (getting richer) and state pensioners (getting poorer).
► Stop the growing disparity between state pensioners (who are seeing their income fall in real terms) and those in work (who could potentially find new ways to compete).
► Don’t use powerless pensioners as an economic buffer to Brexit turmoil.
► As we cut loose from the EU and head back towards a boom-and-bust economy, please consider the true cost of Brexit and introduce this one little stabilizing mechanism.

Please click this link to see the petition and sign it: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/176886

 

Trade under WTO Rules – What does it mean?

What are the implications of “trade under WTO rules” if the UK leaves the single market?

The parliamentary International Trade Committee has been interviewing subject specialists to provide insights into the legal and political dimensions of trading under WTO rules only.

This session on Parliament TV has particular emphasis on technical issues such as non-tariff barriers to trade agricultural trade, the legality of establishing a new farm subsidy system outside the CAP, and the practical difficulties of extracting the UK share from the EU in the WTO quota system.

PARLIAMENT TV: International Trade Committee – WTO Rules and UK Agriculture (excerpt)