Confidential Advice: PvdA needs to look for new key message

Security of existence became the key message of the PvdA following the unprecedented election defeat of 2017, and then party leader Lodewijk Asscher hoped to win back voters. But the party has to get rid of that message again, is in a confidential opinion to the party board held by the CCeit.

The opinion is called Progressive and Binding and was written by a working group led by Martijn van Dam, who was a member of Parliament for twelve years, was Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in the second Rutte Cabinet and is now a member of the Board of Directors of the NPO.

According to the working group, security of existence is a core value of the PvdA. but in the run-up to next year‘s municipal elections, Van Dam and others find it unsuitable as the key message: โ€œcommunicatively these terms contribute to an overly static image and appellate them. insufficient to the future and progressive and connective nature of the PvdA.โ€

Classical Understanding of Social Democracy

Asscher introduced the concept of security of existence as the core message of the PvdA in response to the 2017 sample defeat, from 38 seats to nine. Over the years before, the party in the Rutte II cabinet had contributed, for example, to increase the state pension age, layoffs in home care and the introduction of the student lending system. That was seen as a major cause of defeat, as those decisions had led to uncertainty for citizens.

Asscher concluded that the PvdA had to go back to the theme of security of existence, a classical concept of social democracy, and that was then translated into concepts such as โ€œbeing sure of good work, good education and a good homeโ€.

Two months before this year’s election, Asscher stepped up in connection with the allowance affair. The PvdA saw the profit in the polls shrivel and stuck on 9 seats.

The Van Dam working group, which also includes former Minister Dijsselbloem, made a tour of the party and now concludes that the message should be more modern, progressive, with more attention to diversity and more focused on youth.

Building Blocks

The working group does not give concrete advice on how to read the new key message. However, she provides a number of building blocks, such as โ€œbetter and fairer, general well-being over individual prosperity, if we do nothing wins the strongest, it doesn‘t go by itself. More us, less meโ€. The working group also advocates an approach that is SPITS. That abbreviation stands for Together, Positive, Inspiring, Forward-Looking and Strideable.


is remarkable is that the word left does not appear in the opinion, except if GroenLinks is mentioned as an important collaborative partner. The concept of social democracy does not exist either.

It also states that the party is an island kingdom. The party office, the parliamentary group members, the scientific office and other PvdA organisations do not cooperate sufficiently. The working group believes that more volunteers need to be worked, because paid employees, such as the chairman, have become too expensive now that the party has only nine seats left.

Ploumen: ‘Security of existence remains pillar

According to party leader Ploumen, โ€œthe 2nd Parliamentary Group and the Party Board have taken note of it with interest and will take advantage of itโ€. Security of existence remains one of the pillars of social democracy, according to Ploumen.

But there is also irritation that the concept of security of existence is pushed aside because it is the very core of what the PvdA should stand for.

Simon den Haak, head of information under Asscher, says: โ€œThe analysis is flawed and the recommendations are superficial and easy. If you call security conservative, you miss the enormous uncertainty that millions of Dutch people now feel about housing distress, a flexible contract, or the teacher shortage. For most Dutch people, being sure of an affordable home, fixed work with a decent salary and a good school for the children is not conservative but great progress.โ€

Others point out that the theme was chewed out under Asscher and was already beginning to get out of the picture. Asscher himself doesn’t want to respond.

Read the full opinion of the Van Dam Committee here.