Prime Minister Rutte had never before been subjected to so much criticism during the famous “Job Elsewhere” debate, last year’s Easter. He had to fight late into the night to regain confidence after a ‘job elsewhere’ note was leaked about Peter Umtzegt about which he had no ‘active memory’.
Rutte walked out of the debate badly damaged, but remained prime minister. However, he began to think about his management style. During the Easter holidays last year, he announced “radical ideas”:
What are those ideas? More discussion and transparency. And a clearer separation between the Council of Ministers and Parliament. The human dimension will come again first. And there will be no more pension and climate deals to which Parliament can finally say “yes” to.
Rutte also advocated a “club between the Cabinet and the Chamber of Deputies” that helps citizens if they have a problem with executive organizations. Then the government will have a more human face again.
‘Not enough yet’
We are another year. What has changed? “Too little,” concludes Wim Formans, professor of constitutional and administrative law. “It’s not enough yet.”
Voermans sees almost nothing of the promise to be more transparent there. “The House of Representatives is simply still not fully informed. And when information is released, the handbrake is often set.”
Voermans cites the controversy over the face-mask deal with Minister Hugo de Jonge as an example: “The House of Representatives has been asking for essential documents for months, but they were only released by order of the minister.”
Root has not changed.
SP MP Renske Leijten does not see any drastic changes either. “I don’t think Ruth has changed last year either,” says the critical deputy. Leijten is also looking for the cause at the Rutte Party: VVD. “The VVD continues to protect its ministers and keep them off the wind. Soon Zwarte Piet is put into the House of Representatives.”
Is it not also because of the ferocity with which the opposition sometimes attacks cabinet members during debates? “I find it very easy,” says Ligten. “We always say: You can always make mistakes, but admit them, be honest, and fix them.”
Be honest and open
The vice president sees things going better, positive things: “Changes are very much dependent on the person and the situation. I certainly see good developments. The ministers I talk to for my conservatives are open, they don’t ignore it and they communicate better. But the change is drastic; no, I’m I really don’t see that.”
You think a lot is still old. Example: “This week it was announced that Tax and Customs Administration was using discriminatory criteria to determine fraud risks. The relevant ministers have known about this for a year and a half, but have been quiet about it, and then tell me, I think. Be honest and open and admit and take back your mistakes.”
She thinks MPs support each other better. Opposition parties and the government. “We support each other in asking for discussions and if the government doesn’t investigate.”
Leijten sees only the human dimension in words. “It’s on paper and it’s said, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Not everything is in silence anymore
Voermans is a little more positive on this point. He considers the €800 additional energy cost for the poor and reduced fuel prices to be a case in point. “But there is still no hotline through which parents involved in the benefit issue can be reunited with their children.”
In this discussion of, for example, the additional cost of energy, you also see that the home is involved in the process. “Not everything is negotiated in silence anymore. In the past, the House of Representatives sometimes received a ready-made deal with the message: You have to do it with this.”
“We are working hard”
How does Roti think it’s going? “We are working hard on it,” the prime minister said during his weekly press conference. “For example, because we announce everything. I don’t want it alone, the whole government wants it.”
The Prime Minister continued, “When we make decisions, we look at the alternatives available to us and publish key documents. We strive for a more relaxed relationship between civil servants and the House of Representatives.”
Another Cabinet member admits that it is still sometimes difficult for the new team of ministers to discover exactly what this new management culture entails. And how exactly does the promised dualism (separation of parliament and government) work in practice?
During a debate on additional purchasing power support a few weeks ago, the opposition complained that only plans drawn up by the ruling parties stand a chance. The government rejected dozens of alternative proposals from the opposition one by one.
Kaj and Root
Last week, Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag said she and Root want to talk to the opposition about the spring memo. The setbacks and unexpected expenditures leave a hole in the budget of billions of euros. After negotiations within the coalition, Kaag and Rutte also want to consult the opposition to see if there is support for the chosen solution.
Public administration expert Gerrit Dykstra of Leiden University says changing the culture of governance is very difficult. This applies not only to politics, but to all corporate cultures.
“Culture is deeply ingrained, something intangible and something that has been created for years and you can’t just change that. This is very difficult. So you need concrete ideas. How are you going to do that, with whom and what do you want to achieve? If you become so tangible, you will never have a culture. completely new.”
will you work?
Will you ever succeed? “Only if you have very specific ideas and know exactly how you are going to implement them. And even then, it takes years.” Leijten is gloomy: “As long as Rutte and VVD continue to be in power, there will be no drastic changes,” says SP.
The protagonist himself, Mark Rutte, remains positive: “It’s an endeavor. Not only between the Cabinet and the House of Representatives, but also between the House and the Cabinet. But we’re working hard on it. Every day.”
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