‘I was surprised that the scouts for’ function elsewhere ‘for Omtzigt also based on my article’

Mark Rutte (l) and Pieter Omtzigt (r) before the swearing-in of the new Chamber. The question remains who is behind Omtzigt’s ‘function elsewhere’.Image Freek van den Bergh / de Volkskrant

Isn’t it clumsy and naive that the scouts are apparently hiding behind your analysis of the royal drama within the CDA?

Shortly, laughing: ‘No, of course they saw that correctly. Apparently it was clear to the scouts what was happening within the CDA. I am now ready as a journalist. What else is there to wish for? I hope to be summoned during the debate in the House of Representatives. ‘

Maybe they could have hired you as a scout right away?

‘They are not that far in The Hague yet, everyone is still attached to the old party politics. They have to get away from that first, because I think it would be great fun to be a scout for a cabinet formation. ‘

In any case, you gave the start by describing how the CDA top has in fact been in his stomach for years with the position of Omtzigt.

‘Function elsewhere is therefore the result of a discussion within the CDA that has been going on since I started as a political reporter in The Hague in 2013. Omtzigt is a passionate Member of Parliament, but is also seen by group members as a difficult person who goes his own way. The CDA has already given Omtzigt a function elsewhere several times by placing him low on the electoral list.

‘But Omtzigt came back again and again, he has a strong mandate with now 342,472 preference votes. Although party leader Wopke Hoekstra received almost 100,000 more, I also described in that article the lack of stability within the CDA. The scouts also questioned Hoekstra’s negotiating style. He limped into the formation discussions on two minds. Should the CDA govern? ‘

You called Omtzigt a power factor with a large power base outside the party.

Omtzigt is especially popular outside of his party. When he has something in his head, he develops a force of nature and then goes through rows and diamonds. ‘

And so, after the painful defeat for the CDA in the elections, a whispering campaign started, in which the overworked Omtzigt was portrayed as a loose cannon.

‘They’re in their stomachs with him. It started with a column in The Telegraph, in which it was written that Omtzigt was sick and unstable and sometimes burst into tears. Then there was a story in it HP / The Time over about the whisper campaign against Omtzigt.

‘We wouldn’t be quick to publish such a piece with anonymous sources in de Volkskrant, because all those people mainly serve their own interests. The fact is that this whispering campaign became a factor within the CDA. That is where my analysis of the struggle within the CDA came from. ‘

The previous scouts have ensured that Hoekstra can hardly drop Omtzigt now? Are they condemned to each other?

‘I’ve heard several suggestions about Omtzigt’s new role. You have to give him a place in the Chamber anyway, that’s what he came into the world for. You can also make him party leader of the CDA, then he can shape the dualism between parliament and government.

‘Omtzigt can also be given a free role, with the files in which he excels. In this way, he can also strengthen the restoration of the rule of law, provided that everyone at the CDA agrees. But the problem is that that party is on its hole. ‘

It was already striking that everything Omtzigt stands for – and especially his razor-sharp criticism of the functioning of democracy – played no role in the CDA campaign for the elections.

Hoekstra may have started as party leader too late to use it, but I also think that Omtzigt’s ideas are far removed from him. You notice that the wounds are far from healed at the CDA. Before Easter, the CDA hopes to appoint an interim chairman who must restore internal confidence. It’s just the first step. ‘

Hoekstra must now prevent Omtzigt from tearing up the party as a divisive mushroom. Are they not also a model for the ancient battle of directions within the CDA?

‘It is now tempting for Hoekstra to play hard to get at the VVD and D66. He is insulted, the CDA is insulted and a Member of Parliament who has been elected with many preferential votes was insulted. Hoekstra can think: come across the bridge if you would like us so badly to be in the next cabinet. But you see how the CDA is hesitant, that party does not know which way to go.

‘Should they sit down like a VVD light in the new cabinet and then sweep the shards together again in four years’ time? Or do you get color by entering the opposition? Perhaps it wouldn’t be unwise. ‘

Has the CDA learned nothing from the previous election defeat in 2012?

‘After that punishment, the CDA started to reinvent itself under the leadership of Sybrand Buma, but they did not go deep enough. If the CDA had clearly supported Omtzigt’s ideas, that party would have had a sharp profile in the political force field.

‘No one other than Omtzigt depicts the bridge that the government must build to citizens, he referred to the lack of trust. The CDA did not even have to hoist the man on the shield, but his ideas. Then the CDA could really have meant something, but they are far from that yet.

‘Yet the CDA must dare to cut deep into its own flesh. They have the oldest membership and voter base of all parties. If the CDA does not renew itself, they will lose their voters in the cemetery. ‘

Are you not walking across the Binnenhof as inspector Columbo to find out who came up with ‘function elsewhere’ for Omtzigt?

‘I have no idea. What I learned in The Hague is that you have to weigh every word on a gold scale. If Rutte says: I have not spoken about this, it can still mean that he has sent an app. Or spoke to someone else about Omtzigt who told the scouts again. It must come from Rutte, possibly in a conversation with D66 leader Kaag or else from circles around Hoekstra. But I dare not say it. ‘

I assume the new scouts will also enter your next analysis de Volkskrant will read?

‘I was really amazed that my story was mentioned in this matter. A colleague in The Hague said to me: from now on you have to have one sensitivity reader get to your pieces. ‘

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