They are new to The Hague politics and they do it alone: the three one-woman fractions that have been in the House since March. For more than three months, Sylvana Simons (Bij1), Caroline van der Plas (BBB) and Liane den Haan (ex-50Plus) are now working.
Representing the people is a busy job, but honorable. The three agree on that. “We have 17 million people, 150 of whom are MP. If you can be one of them… “, outlines Van der Plas. “Thats very special.”
Simons says she feels “always behave” by her constituents. But the BIJ1 leader also calls it exhausting to be MP because politics continue 24 hours a day for her. “Then I walk in the supermarket and think, why are those labels so badly readable? Or in the city I think: what a crazy building and why is it empty?”
There is a lot to do in the Chamber too, especially when youre on your own. There are 15 parliaments permanent committees covering different topics and then a number of temporary committees. Too much to interfere with one MP.
Its even more difficult for Den Haan, because she has no more batch behind her. More than a month after the election, she left 50Plus with a fight, who disappeared from the House of Representatives. “Very nice”, Den Haan calls it to be away from the party that brought her to The Hague. “Fine without a knife in your back, without having to constantly look around and without having to walk on eggs.”
Den Haan says she still focuses on the elderly subjects that have been chosen for, in practice these are social affairs, living and care. So although she doesnt (or less intensively) many subjects, it doesnt come true. “Recently, three committee debates were scheduled at once where I wanted to go. Well, how then?”
Where Den Haan considers seniors important, BBB focuses on “everything that is farmer and countryside”. And thats not just the Committee on Agriculture, says Caroline van der Plas. “Infrastructure is also important, public transport and roads. Everything about Economic Affairs too, the EU Affairs Committee on subsidies and even integration and integration affects the countryside too.”
Simons stresses that groups of course have employees in support, but debates, meetings and interviews really end up on her plate. “We tried to funnel to what matters to us: equality, government-citizen relationship, human rights.”
So much to do, but there is a lot to be left in the Chamber, all three of them find. Den Haan and Simons deny the fact that debates often bogged down in detail or end in all sorts of side paths. “We should not address every current affairs all the time, but rather make room for ideological debates,” the BIJ1 leader outlines. “We need to talk about what kind of country we want to be.”
“So much for the buhne”
The Den Haan ancestor Group mentions the formation debate on the report by informer Tjeenk Willink as an example. “Then parties start about childcare allowances. Also very important, but a different topic from the formation.” She also mentions proposals in the Chamber about the conflict in Gaza Strip. “Thats not what were about, are we? Theres so much happening here for the bühne, I have trouble with that.”
According to Simons, there is a role for the new President of Chamber Vera Bergkamp (D66). “It should say a bit more often: this is not the subject of debate today.” The BIJ1 leader believes that the Presidency may be more tightened anyway.
According to her, it often seems that the Chamber is allowed to ask some questions to the Cabinet, while it has to be the other way around. “Theyre coming to us accountable, arent they?” As a matter of fact, administrations often talk “faint and fluffy”, Simons says. As far as she is concerned, the Chairman should address Ministers and Secretaries more frequently or allow MPs to ask for longer questions.
This week, Simons collided with demissionary Prime Minister Rutte on a motion she had filed:
Van der Plas tries to make a practical improvement in the Chamber every now and then, she says. So far without much success. For example, she wanted a formation whatsapp group so that the Chamber would be informed about progress before the press. “That will be laughed away, then they start about Zuckerberg this and that, but they dont come up with anything themselves and so the leak to the press continues.”
Anyway, Van der Plas thinks everything in The Hague takes quite a long time. Fewer words, more deeds, she wants to see. “The CDA talks about grab now and D66 about new leadership,” she quotes campaign slogans. “But theres no caught up, theres no new leadership. Instead, were in a formation that doesnt last for a long time.”
Not all need long.because all three one-woman groups think they have achieved something in the Chambers three months. Van der Plas mentions the proposal (together with the SP) to make the Westerschelde tunnel between Zeeland Flanders and the rest of the Netherlands toll free, Den Haan mentions the bulletin buses that go into the neighborhoods to vaccinate.
Simons calls the attention she has generated for sex workers, but also simply the presence of her party in The Hague. “Its a tangible achievement that were a fraction of color.” And that leads, she stresses, that more people are going to delve into what is happening at the Binnenhof. “I hear in my area that people are suddenly watching debates, that they get an interest in politics. Beautiful right?”
Van der Plas notices the same thing in her surroundings. “Since youve been in the Chamber – and they also call Sylvana – something happens again, they say to me. We both dont take a sheet of mouth and that appeals to people.”
One Weeks Sleep
Now that the recess really started after Wednesdays extra burdened corona bat, the group leaders have no commitments in The Hague until 6 September. But they have plenty to do anyway.
This is how Den Haan wants to make a decision about her future this summer. Three parties have asked her “concrete” to join them and she is seriously considering switching. What parties they are, she doesnt want to lose yet. However, the option to set up your own party is still on the table, or just continue as a pitter.
Van der Plas will have the whole agenda full of all sorts of work visits over the coming weeks. “There are a lot of people who want to lose their story and I dont want to disappoint them,” says the BBB forefront.
Simons is going to use the recess to make another shitter in the topics her party wants to “do”. “Its not too much now, but I dont want to choose until Im already overstretched in bed. Then its too late.”
By the way, the BIJ1 leader does not get started right away. “No, Im going to sleep for a week first.”