Opinion: History repeats itself

POSTED: 01/8/14 5:03 AM

Politics remains a game for those who are after power in the first place, as we pointed out yesterday based on the diaries of the conservative British politician Alan Clark. Of course, politicians will always deny this. They are there to work for the people that elected them; but do they, really? That is the 64,000-dollar question in the magical year 2014 when the local electorate will go to the polls to elect a new parliament.

There is one thing both politicians and voters know for sure. Politicians are free to make promises they will not keep, and voters know that they will be duped as soon as their vote is safely on the books. Then they have another four years to complain about everything politicians are not doing – and about everything they are doing wrong.

It is a very old game and everybody knows the rules. Now that the topic of electoral reform is on the table anyway, we may as well debate changing the rules that apply to our politicians a bit as well?

For instance, we would like to see that politicians show up for work. If we do not show up for work we are not getting paid. For politicians, the carnival simply continues, even if they show in the annual reports of the parliament an attendance record that would get you nowhere in the private sector. Let us set a price for the meetings our representatives are supposed to attend. For every time they do not show up that money will be withheld from their monthly paycheck. Fair enough?

Next, we have to bring up the speaking time politicians allow themselves in parliament. Not that we are so fond of the Netherlands, but we do remember a Kingdom Relations committee meeting in The Hague where speakers were allotted 5 minutes to say what they had on their mind.

Five minutes! That is 300 seconds and these politicians make every one of them count. Some of our MPs take six times as much time to arrive for a meeting that begins at 2 p.m.

We are bracing ourselves for the upcoming budget debate. We know already that the debate will be about anything and everything, except about the budget. Still our politicians want to have at least one and a half our speaking time in the first round (correct us if we are wrong with the actual number of minutes) and another hour or so in the second round. To say what?

An improvement would be to chop up the budget debate per ministry and give one spokesman or woman of each faction 5 minutes to deliver their comments. That would give each faction 35 minutes in the first round and, if need be, another 35 minutes in the second round. That should do it.

Another improvement would be to call MPs to order the moment they start deviating from the agenda point at hand. That seldom happens and this is also why MPs need so much time to get their message across.

And what is that message anyway? It seems to be the same song year after year. The government is not taking care of the people, the energy bills are too high and if they were in government they would do something about it – though when the time comes this never materializes for one reason or the other. Why is this so? For an explanation, see the second paragraph of this article.

Because of all of this, do not expect too much – if anything – from next week’s budget debate. History has a tendency to repeat itself.

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