Waking up and hearing the news from the Netherlands following their General Election, I feel proud to be European. Thank God for the Dutch people who have, in the words of the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, “said ‘stop’ to the wrong sort of populism”. The Dutch people have voted against extremists and halted the advance of the nationalist far right.
While the UK continues to be beguiled by a popularist nationalism with some disturbing undercurrents, the results in the Netherlands provides some shafts of light in the dark clouds that have re-emerged over Europe and the USA in recent days. Whilst we continue to be obsessed with economics, the Dutch voters have demonstrated that politics is about more than the economy, it’s about the kind of society we want to live in, taking their part as world citizens, proud of our national identity but not to the exclusion of others. The election tested whether the country wanted to end decades of openness and centrist politics and opt instead for an anti-immigration nationalism, seeped in self-interest which was being heralded by Geert Wilders. Thankfully his popularist, anti-immigration, racist political party, whilst gaining some seats, slumped to just over 10% of the overall vote. The surprising and encouraging big winners in the election were the pro-European left-wing ecologists who gained a significant number of seats which conceivably could see them entering into a ruling coalition with Prime Minister Rutte’s centre-right VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). The losers were those on the far right and far left, with the Dutch Labour Party being virtually wiped out, which should signal another reason for the Labour Party here in Britain to sort itself out to mount the only credible opposition possible to our present government.
Another interesting and encouraging feature of the elections is that the Dutch people, despite being bombarded by the media’s extensive coverage of Geert Wilders, were not beguiled by the clever nationalist rhetoric and ‘herd mentality’ that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche used to describe how people are influenced to adopt certain attitudes and behaviours. Would that we here in Britain would think beyond the lies and manipulation of so much of our own media.
So thank you Netherlands that you have ditched extremists, that freedom and liberalism has conquered over the politics of fear, sectarianism and division. What we have failed to do here in Britain, you have done, not only for yourselves but for Europe as a whole. Pray God, that France and Germany will follow your example.
Like your flowers that signal spring and brighten the day, you have lifted my spirit this morning and made me glad to be a partner with you, a fellow European.