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February 15, 2017

Fillon under fire

François Fillon nipped in a bud an attempt of 17 Republican MPs demanding a meeting to discuss the withdrawal of his candidature. He told the party that they are a minority and that they should not harass him, but support him. Fillon insisted that there is no alternative to his candidature. Party members complained that campaigning for Fillon is impossible under the current circumstances, and that the 15 days he asked them to have faith in his recovery are over but nothing has improved.

Meanwhile the string of new accusations does not seem to end. Now the spotlight is on Fillon’s speaker, Thierry Solère. Le Canard Enchaîné reveals that he did not pay parts of his taxes for the years 2010-2013. Also, digging in archives, LeLab found interview excerpts of Fillon, lashing out against the low ethical morale in public office, citing in particular Nicolas Sarkozy and one of François Hollande’s ministers. In September 2016 he criticised that politicians are too easily let off the hook. Fillon can now eat his words. 

Fabien Clairefond makes a good point saying that Fillon is not alone, and that temptations are manifold in a country where public expenditure to GDP ratio is 57% and where access to public money is relatively easy. He gives an impressive long list of those cases.

In response to Clairefond: the point is that none of those tried to get elected as president. Abuse of public funds by candidates or their staff compromises the integrity of the candidate, especially in the eyes of those who feel like they are the ones who lost out. Or is the argument that since everyone is a sinner, it does not matter in the end?

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February 15, 2017

More headaches for Rutte

The Teeven scandal continues to produce headaches for Mark Rutte. This case involves allegations of a government cover-up after embarrassing details emerged in 2014 about a bargain in 2000 between then-prosecutor Fred Teeven and convicted drug dealer. It has led to the resignation of two justice ministers under Rutte, the latest two weeks ago as we reported (see also for more background). The story has been kept alive by Bas Haan of the TV programme Nieuwsuur. The latest revelations are that four of Rutte's advisors received advanced notice of a parliamentary answer by then justice minister Ivo Opstelten on the amount of the cash settlement negotiated by Teeven. Rutte continues to deny to this day that he knew of this, but the fact that his close advisors did know raises the recurring question of his credibility. 

To make matters worse, it appears that Rutte's VVD was planning to appoint Teeven to the consultative Council of State without informing their coalition partners the labour party PvdA. Deputy PM and PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher claims he knew nothing of the planned appointment, which was revealed on Sunday. The appointment is still on the agenda for the cabinet meeting this Friday, but it has been criticised by the opposition and may be questioned in the parliament. NRC writes that in this climate the PvdA will do nothing to help Rutte avoid a debate in the Tweede Kamer about the latest Teeven-deal revelations.

Meanwhile, RTL has decided to go ahead with the party leaders' debate but without the participation of PVV and VVD. This will benefit the labour party PvdA and the socialists SP, which will join the christian democrats CDA, left-liberals D66, and green left GroenLinks.

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February 15, 2017

Who are the bigots now?

We have remarked on several occasions that the former Remain advocates are going through various stages of mourning. Denial was the initial reaction. There is a lot of anger around. And here and there, some have moved on to acceptance. We have a lot of sympathy for the forthright views expressed by Abi Wilkinson, in the Guardian. Wilkinson is a Londoner who supported Remain, but she is now appalled by the way some Remainers are depicting of Leavers as uneducated and irrational, and are hoping for an economic backlash in constituencies that supported Leave.

She notes that the Labour Party, when in power, failed to protect the material interests of their core supporters in a changing economy. When the Tories took over, they made it worse, and this give rise to the narrative that elites have been pushing their toxic agenda at the expense of ordinary people. 

“Instead of learning from this failure, many privileged remainers are simply doubling down on their ignorance. If you write off more than half of the population and wish further hardship on regions that are already struggling, why should those people listen to a word you say? And if you’re willing to restrict redistributive policies to those who agree with your political views then you’re no better than the Tories who offer tax cuts to their millionaire friends while slashing public services to the bone in Labour local authorities. If progressive politics is to take hold in the public imagination again it will not be by writing off vast swaths of the electorate as irredeemable bigots who deserve whatever hardships a Conservative government heaps upon them – it will be by offering positive, leftwing solutions to people’s very real worries.”

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