Politics: It’s all about power

POSTED: 01/7/14 2:06 AM

Politics is all about power and it is good to let this sink in during this election year. The rumblings have started, players are jockeying for position and when the dust settles, everything will continue the way it did before the elections –only with a few differences here and there in terms of the faces that have become so familiar to us during the hectic three years that are behind us.

What do we hear? Ah, a lot of things, and there is no way of knowing what is true and what is fiction. But interesting it certainly is, like the notion that Minister Cornelius de Weever will join the United St. Maarten People party of Frans Richardson and that DP-stalwart Leroy de Weever will go the same direction. Who knows? We asked the minister some time ago, but we still have not received an official reaction.

Where will that leave our Prime Minister and the faction leader of the DP, Roy Marlin? Well, what we hear is that the party is thinking about entering the elections with a list-combination with another party – name as yet unknown.

So far, we have not met one politician who did not say that she or he is “working for the people.” It sounds so comforting, yet most of it is just a lot of humbug. Columnist Martin Sommer writes in the Volkskrant what politics is all about: power baby.

Power is a funny thing. People in the Netherlands don’t like it (at least they say stuff like that) and politicians do not like to be caught playing power games either. They prefer to accuse the media of depicting the Second Chamber as an arena of fights and conflict.

They could have fooled us there. Just think about our rather expensive parliament building where overpaid politicians are seemingly doing their utmost not to pass legislation that could benefit “the people.”

“Sometimes I think that the only reason to stay on is to prove those wankers wrong. Not that journalist will ever understand, let alone admit, that they are wrong. They complain about that bad trait in politicians. But journalists themselves are much worse. They ought to be held to account every year.”

This is a well-known complaint, Sommer writes. The above quote is from the British conservative politician Alan Clark. He wrote his hilarious Diaries about his years under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Clarke was the State Secretary of Trade and later of Defense, and his writings were Sommer’s favorites during the Christmas holidays. The book is from 1993, twenty years old, but it has not aged a day. It is about hatred and envy in politics and it is completely politically incorrect. That must have had to do with Clark’s position as a member of the landed nobility. He could not care less, he could always return to his castle.

Reading Clark reminded me of my intention to deal with my own mistakes on an annual basis, Sommer muses. Did I pay enough attention in 2013 to the department of hatred and jealousy – in other words, the less wonderful characteristics of our national politicians? Just like most of the residents of the square kilometer in The Hague I tend in my obedience to see politics as a way of solving problems. Should we send two helicopters to save Mali? That sort of thing.

Very important of course, but after reading Clark’s such straight up and down Diaries you know again what politics is really all about. The power-question. See the remarks about this aspect earlier in this op-ed.

Here is Clark one more time: “It is probably not nice to say this, but politics are not decided based on an analysis of the national interest or even the party interest. Personal motives, ambition, causing controversy, an opportunity in the future or simply raw revenge – it is all part of the game.”

Politics is not only cynical, a high placed civil servant once said. That is probably true, but it is also comfortable to just talk about the content. Even in the Netherlands it is always about something else – about who says something and not what that somebody says. Halbe Zijlstra (VVD) is still the bad boy because of his cost saving measures in the culture sector. His successor Jet Bussemaker (PvdA) travels through the cultural life as the good fairy, while she has hardly done anything to reverse those terrible measures Zijlstra took.

But the tone is different, we hear. Behind all that it is in reality about positions and jobs. It is not chic to admit that and therefore the differences between parties are pimped up artificially. Welcome to St. Maarten – at least here we realize that there are no differences between our political parties.

Sommer considers this enlarging of the differences between parties tiresome. “I always tend to forget that the Netherlands is  party crazy. First the own party, above everything else, and then I am not even talking about the death struggle within the parties, for example in the run-up to elections.”

A minister once told Sommer that journalists know very little about the inner world. This very uncomfortable truth is only softened by the thought that most politicians do not know a lot either. Not about what happens in the Torentje (the office of the prime minister), not about the panicky fear for leaking, not about what their colleagues are up to and not about who has the ear of the prime minister and who does not. Another politician told Sommer that most of his energy goes into fighting fellow-party members. Governing is something you do as a side job – in the evening and in the weekends.

All this tallies exactly with the mood Alan Clark describes in his diaries – and it also sounds darn familiar here in St. Maarten.

In days gone by, newspapers would have headlines like “Argument in the cabinet” That often triggered criticism: you see, for the Volkskrant it is not about the content but about the arena and the horse race. And rightly so. Sommer predicts a lot of headlines in the coming year about arguments in the coalition. For the sake of journalism, he notes, that is just excellent.

So let us add a prediction (not entirely of our own making, but the thought seems logic) for St. Maarten. Maybe it is not a prediction, it is more like a feeling. We figure that the third Wescot-Williams cabinet will not finish the race to full term either. That’s because some politicians prefer to have elections earlier, at least, that’s what we hear. If someone – the name Laville somehow comes to mind almost automatically –really had the balls to pull the plug on this cabinet as well, there will be no song and dance about forming a fourth government within one cabinet-period. Then we’ll head towards early elections. Alan Clark would appreciate all this. After all, politics is not about the people, or the country, it is abo

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