Dutch news in brief, Friday 9 October 2009

9th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Dutch royals weather political storm
All papers cover Thursday’s heated parliamentary debate on the Dutch royal family.

“Privileges gone” is the headline in De Telegraaf.

But in the face of a storm of criticism from MPs, it’s not all bad news for the royal family. Although public funding of private flights and fiscal benefits have now been restricted, exceptions have been made for the Queen, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima. The prince will also be allowed to continue building a holiday home in Mozambique despite controversy over spiralling costs and dubious dealings.

In De Telegraaf’s editorial, the writer warns political parties who argue for a monarchy that is purely ceremonial are walking on thin ice. “Our constitutional monarchy has a rich history as a stable factor in our nation.”

That support is not unconditional, however. Referring to the row over Prince Willem-Alexander’s African holiday villa, the paper warns that “a princely holiday paradise built on dubious foundations cannot be tolerated for long”.

The paper quotes a survey which reveals that half of the Dutch population do not approve of the prince’s holiday hideaway.

Labour slumps in polls
The latest opinion polls shows support for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) is at its all time low, wining only 14 seats in parliament if an election was called now. The dip is popularity sees the party’s ranking drop from second to firth.

AD describes it as “an all-time low in the history of social democracy” and its editorial continues: “When I hear the letters PvdA … I think of some poor soul stuck in quicksand being dragged further down with every panicky movement they make.”

The heat is now on Labour’s party chairwoman Mariëtte Hamer, whose political persona can best be described as a triumph of substance over form. The party chairperson leads the PvdA in the lower house of parliament.

One party member said: “Let’s face it, she’s no Obama.” Traditional, authentic, but “a terrible saleswoman”.

She beat the younger and more charismatic Diederick Samsom to the chairmanship but her former rival has compounded the party’s woes in a leaked e-mail, describing the state of the party as “deplorable”, and pushing the blame on her.

PvdA leader Wouter Bos has called on the party to close ranks and support Hamer. NRC-next quotes him as saying: “She’s doing an extremely difficult job in very difficult times and she deserves all our support.”

But at the same time the paper notes: “Bos doesn’t want criticism of Hamer, but there’s no denying it’s there.”

With even the ambitious Samsom back on board and toeing the party line, Hamer’s position looks safe for the time being.

But it’s de Volkskrant which perhaps provides the most telling reason why “The PvdA is so divided it can’t even get a party revolt off the ground.”

Dictionary brings recognition for Dutch sign language
Trouw reports the publication of a dictionary with a difference.

Publishers Van Dale – the people behind the dictionary that is to Dutch what the OED or Webster’s is to English – have now collected over 3,000 signs in a basic dictionary of Dutch sign language.

The first copy was presented Thursday to Education and Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk who was at pains to point out that “this is a rich language, more than just a collection of gestures”.

The paper reports that each word is accompanied by illustrations that enable the reader to make the associated sign. Or vice versa.

The publisher emphasised: “Dutch is the second language of the country’s deaf community. For them the dictionary is actually bilingual.”

Converting a sign to the printed page is no easy matter. “They are difficult to read,” said the head of the Dutch sign language centre. “You really need to have seen the sign first.”

While it’s not the first printed resource for sign language in Dutch, it is the most extensive and most prestigious.

One member of the deaf community explained in sign language through an interpreter: “It feels as if our language is now on a more equal footing with Dutch.”

Book on Yab Yum launched
de Volkskrant reports the launch of a book written by a dyslexic brothel owner who admitted to never reading a book in his entire life.

Theo Heuft is no ordinary brothel owner. He is the founder of Yab Yum, Amsterdam’s most celebrated and notorious bordello, which was the embodiment of the shady, sleazy and glamorous side of the city for decades.

Surprisingly, most of those present at the launch were too bashful to admit ever having set foot in the place. When one speaker finally admitted to having knocked back a bottle of champagne at the bar in his misspent youth, Heuft remarked knowingly: “Any man who admits having paid us a visit always insists they didn’t get further than the bar.”

His past clientele can rest easy. Heuft spares their blushes by not naming anyone in his ghost-written account of Yab Yum’s eventful history, which featured a rogues’ gallery of mobsters and eccentrics.

De Volkskrant singles out one particularly colourful character: “A dwarf with a wolf fetish who liked to be rolled up in a carpet.”

Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica

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