A secretary of state who is fired with immediate effect for an interview that is not in line with Cabinet policy. Striking, because it rarely happens that an executive person is really sent out the avenue and does not step out on his own. What was going on behind the scenes around Keijzer, and how could it get to that?
Keijzer did have the opportunity to leave himself, says political reporter Wilco Boom. “According to several sources in The Hague, both Prime Minister Rutte and CDA leader Hoekstra last night, when it was known internally that this was coming, gave her the opportunity to honour herself and resign herself. But Keijzer refused that. She felt continued to defend. Thats why Rutte grabbed for this horseaid.”
What has also brought evil blood to the CDA and the Cabinet is that according to several sources Rutte and Hoekstra would talk further to Keijzer about her objections to the corona measures on Sunday, but that the Secretary of State was cycled through that with the interview.
Could the conflict around Keijzer have been solved differently? At the heart of the problem in this case, the unity of government was at issue, or in Ruttes words: her statements “do not endure with decisions recently taken by the Council of Ministers”.
But thats not to say that governors are not allowed to hold their own opinion at all, says political scientist André Krouwel of the VU Amsterdam. The Prime Minister has multiple options for dealing with a dissident government member. “He can let it go too. He can say: nice, that opinion of the Secretary of State, but this is the Cabinet Policy. Or he can say were going to talk about it.”
The head of government may also request a member of his or her cabinet to step away from his or her statements. “That room for manoeuvre is there in general,” says Krouwel.
But in this case, that room for manoeuvre was soon gone, explains political reporter Ron Fresen. “Mona Keijzer was already difficult in the cabinet, she had many criticisms of the corona policy. In the cabinet, it is usually the case that you can fight your death for your own point of view, but if a decision is made, you are behind it. Or you step on. And the rest of them resents Keijzer for not leaving but that she did go to the newspaper at such a sensitive moment.”
Van den Braak also understands the tough decision to send the Secretary of State away. “In the run-up to the elections, it is more common for officials to take a position that differs from cabinet policy. That will be tolerated. But this is a very different situation, if you look at the timing of the interview and the sensitivity of the subject. If she had questioned the corona access ticket in three weeks, it might have gone different. But driving your own Deputy Prime Minister in the wheels, the day it enters, that was not acceptable for the Prime Minister.”
For Keijzer, it may not remain with the resignation as Secretary of State. Her position in the CDA group is almost untenable, according to Fresen. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow there will be discussions about Keijzers position within the party.