This week there is a debate in the House of Representatives about the rules of order there. Since Prinsjesdag and the general political reflections, there is much to do.
Last weekend Pepijn van Houwelingen MP in the Forum for Democracy shared a tweet in which a flag with a swastika was photoshopped next to ministers Kuipers and Van Gennip. Last week during the APB, Rob Jetten was still called ‘climate psychopath’, Geert Wilders was called ‘Putin’s company poodle’ and the entire cabinet walked away from Vak K after a suspicion of Minister Sigrid Kaag by FvD leader Thierry Baudet.
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Mud-throwing in the chamber is anything but a new phenomenon, believes parliamentary historian Carla Hoetink. “There are always periods in history when things were at least as intense, or maybe even more intense. Also in other parliaments.’
Everything used to be… different
Indeed, Hoetink, who researches the manners of the House of Representatives, points out that the relationships are different. Now, if you were to read the reports of the House of Representatives from the 1930s, between the world wars or in the 1950s, you would still read in those reports accusations like a ‘war criminal’ or a member of the Senate who another member of parliament gave a black eye .’
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The word “courts” – which has caused controversy – also appeared more than once earlier. ‘It has been thrown into Parliament in the same way before,’ says Hoetink, referring to the statements of FvD MP Van Houwelingen, who threatened D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma with tribunals last November.
Words taken away
What can be called exceptional, Hoetink believes, is that FvD leader Thierry Baudet was actually deprived of the floor last week. “When it comes to what happened this week, speaking out is at the top of the escalation ladder.” When you check the history books, you learn that it has been 71 years since a Member of Parliament was last removed from a meeting in this way.
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So for the House of Representatives, the measure is now full, and the standards of conduct are being discussed again there. According to political reporter Leendert Beekman, this means that if ‘people are threatened, it is considered unauthorized behaviour, and when this happens and the words are not taken back, the Speaker of the Parliament can deprive the speaker of the floor and exclude him from the meeting’. ‘And that is a direct result of the remark that Van Houwelingen made to Sjoerdsma last November,’ concludes Beekman.
But the historian Hoetink does not dare to say whether it will change the culture and manners in the House. ‘That’s an interesting question; rules by themselves do not do much. They only become meaningful if they are enforced, but I still believe that the symbolic importance of such a rule change should not be underestimated. The last time the rules of procedure were tightened up on this point was almost 90 years ago, so this suggests that there is support for drawing a line and at the same time creating a connection between personal threats in the Folketing and what we see happening outside the chamber with ministers and Members of Parliament’, she concludes.