PM named conservative of the year
15 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has been named conservative politician of 2003 in the Netherlands.
The honour was bestowed on him by members of the Edmund Burke foundation, based in The Hague.
The foundation was set up in 2000 to propagate the ideas of the intellectual founding father of modern conservatism, the British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke (1727–1797).
It comes a day after Balkenende, the leader of the conservative Christian Democrat CDA, was given a resounding thumbs down by the Netherlands’ business leaders.
Only 14 percent of 138 top managers and directors of leading Dutch companies felt in 2003 that Balkenende was the best choice for prime minister. The previous year, half welcomed his rise to power.
When the individual performance of the 15 members of the centre-right coalition was considered, Balkenende was tied on 12th place.
Balkenende, whose appearance is often likened to that of fictional boy wizard Harry Potter, has put a strong emphasise on the need to re-inject “norms and values” into Dutch society.
His detractors often accuse him of living in the 1950s and of trying to apply standards of a bygone era.
Balkenende has also said that members of the public would have to move away from the feeling that the government had a duty to help them overcome all problems they faced in daily life. He said the Dutch people would have to become more self-reliant.
This sort of talk was music to the ears of the foundation set up to propagate the ideas of Edmund Burke.
Balkenende claimed the honour when he received 17 percent of the 449 votes cast by foundation members. Liberal VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen came in second with 16 percent of the vote.
The Edmund Burke foundation said the award was in recognition for Balkenende’s stance on norms and values and his insistence that a reference to Christian-Jewish traditions be added to the European Constitution.
The CDA — which had been the main element of every post war coalition since 1945 — was out of power for eight years before Balkenende led it back into office in 2002.
From 1994 to May 2002, the Netherlands was run by a centre-left coalition headed by the CDA’s main rival, Labour PvdA.
The Edmund Burke society feels it has played a role in the seismic shift to the centre-right within Dutch society in recent years.
“Conservatism — formerly a byword for political irrelevance, it has in the last few years become a badge of honour for those who seek to make the Netherlands once again a beacon of freedom and dignity,” the foundation says on its website.
Much of this change has been brought about by a small but committed group of conservatives who, in December 2000, decided to join forces in order to give conservatism a legitimate place in public debate.”
And before anyone asks who the committed conservatives were, the foundation was referring to itself.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news