“I am sad, angry and disappointed,” former MP Hilma Luders said earlier today. “We were a party for entrepreneurs, proud of people. I lost that feeling.” And hopes that the House of Representatives repent. If not, they do not rule out a VVD farewell.
Former VVD Senator Sybe Schaap is also into Armor. The fact that the VVD does not show its teeth on the nitrogen profile has something to do with the leadership of the party, which, according to him, is no longer sharp and feels bad about what is going on among the members. “Mark Rutte has been there for a very long time. You always have that with leaders who sit a long time, and then go blank behind them.”
A proposal by Myriam Nellis, a member of the Southern Netherlands, brought matters to the brink last week. She deplores the paradigms on which everything depends and finds it inexplicable that the treasury pursues very strict nitrogen standards. Like most members of the VVD, she is hoping for a turnaround in her party. According to Nellis, Nitrogen Minister van der Waal implements the “D66 fantasy”: “There is no analysis of what the problem and the solution is. We are now blindly following an invalid system.
Eric Zing (former MP) and fellow party member Bernd Stolke support the Nitrogen movement. They feel alienated from their party making decisions without discussion in their ranks. Stolk: „This was exactly what happened under Christian van der Waal as party leader. Oh, what a treat, a nice drink. But listen to the members and talk about the dilemmas, just in case.”
Former MP Heike Feldman: “What I miss when it comes to nitrogen is proof. I only see models, but measurement means knowledge.” Groningen farmer Dolph Fink advised his party to return to the drawing board. “Within four years we will have invested 35 billion euros, we have killed a sector, but nature has not recovered,” he predicts.
Other VVD members are more accurate. Ex-party vice-chairman Eric Witsels fears that the densely populated Netherlands has “lived beyond its means”. “Maybe we have a lot of animals.” On the other hand, he does not understand that the somewhat reckless decision to designate several protected natural areas in the Netherlands can no longer be undone. This sentiment lives on among many of the conference attendees. There is a great desire for the Council of Ministers to return to Brussels to reverse this.
The worrisome parliamentarian Nellis’ nitrogen proposal was signed by more than 800 VVD members in the run-up to the congress, an unprecedented number for liberals. In the end, 51 percent of VVD members agreed. This shows that there is great discontent within the VVD. It’s not just about nitrogen.
Former Medemblik chancellor Mark Raat sees with regret that his party has recently agreed to several left-wing issues, such as raising the minimum wage and state pensions, at the expense of entrepreneurs who expect higher taxes. “If things continue like this, we will move further to the left and we can also join the GL and PvdA merger.”
The current upheaval in its ranks shows parallels with the uproar that arose in 2012 over VVD’s coalition agreement with PvdA. The agreement included a health care premium linked to the income. The protest against this within the VVD was so fierce that the coalition agreement was eventually broken and the decision reversed.
It remains to be seen if that will happen again. Nitrogen Minister van der Waal previously said she understands her message is a bitter pill for farmers, but says there is no other way. If it was up to her, the plan would be adhered to. If that happens, eating cherries would be a sinister for Limburg member state, Teon Heldens, a “drama for our county,” as he calls the nitrogen schemes. The House faction warns that “the VVD that is in this government and who will vote for it is not in my VVD.”
Party leader and Prime Minister Rutte sees no reason in the approved proposal to change the government’s nitrogen rate, he said. “I think the conference says: Look very carefully at all sorts of aspects when detailing. But I do not agree that policy has not been properly thought out or that farmers are being sacrificed. That is not the case at all.” If VVD members want to cancel their membership, “you can always do that,” says Root. “It’s a choice anyone can make.”
Former Westland MP Arne Weaverling found the actions of Nitrogen Minister van der Waal somewhat regrettable. “Declaring doom to cultivators with a big smile on your face… I understand that this might be a mistake.”
The morning of the forum began under a nervous star. Angry farmers had blocked the street in front of Van der Waal’s home in Gelderland the night before. The expectation was that disgruntled farmers would also disrupt the VVD conference. He got a good picture. The police, security and traffic controllers witnessed the approach of four tractors and directed them to an empty yard without any problems.
Rabbit breeder Henk Onk, dressed in an Indian suit from an online Carnival store, secured a spot a little further on the sidewalk for his nitrogen buggy, a wheelbarrow with protest signs. Where’s the cool suit? The Indians were also expelled from their native land. De Achterhoeker, who has now voted for the BBB, hopes the liberals will repent. “VVD must wake up. All of our countryside is dying. This will be a black page in history,” he said.
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