Euroland: Will the Netherlands Be the Next Domino To Fall?

By Servaas Storm, a Dutch economist and author who works on macroeconomics, technological progress, income distribution & economic growth, finance, development and structural change, and climate change. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Austerity has nurtured resentments that will likely make the populist right PVV the biggest winner in the March 17 election — but without the majority or the allies needed to govern.

The Dutch go the polls on March 15, a few weeks ahead of the French vote to choose the successor to Président François Hollande and well before Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel seeks a fourth term in September. The Dutch vote takes on a wider European significance, however, because Dutch voters — who rebelled against a EU ‘constitution’ in 2005 and last year rejected the association treaty between the EU and Ukraine in a referendum — have in the past proved to be a good gauge of European sentiment.

This time, there is a strong anti-‘politics-as-usual’ sentiment blowing across the Netherlands, which—through a voter swing to the right—may set the country on the anti-establishment path blazed by Brexit and Trump. The Dutch populist insurgency is led by the far-right anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) of MP Geert Wilders, who wants to scrap the euro, break up the Eurozone, and restore border checks in the EU. Wilders’ PVV is a single-member party, the only member being its leader who alone decides its program and positions, and selects the names on the party’s electoral list.  The party program, written on one side of a single sheet of paper, centers mostly on stopping migration, fighting the ‘Islamization of Europe,’ and freeing the Dutch from the shackles of the Brussels bureaucracy and the Frankfurt-based ECB. Wilders has without doubt benefited from the same factors that have buoyed populists elsewhere in recent years: the incapacity to resolve the Eurozone crisis; growing concerns about ‘mass’ migration, ‘failing’ integration and the ‘refugee crisis’; terrorist attacks; and the failure of center-left parties to deliver the outcomes to which their traditional constituencies aspire, most prominently decent and stable employment. The PVV has been leading in the polls for months and will most likely emerge as the big winner of the 2017 elections—making Wilders the prime candidate to form a (coalition) government.

This populist insurgency and anti-establishment ‘revolt’ are remarkable in an economy which, going by all the usual macroeconomic indicators and notwithstanding the deep crisis in most of the Eurozone, appears from the outside to be in steady good health. Dutch economic growth has stabilized at around 2% in 2015 and 2016, which is also the predicted growth rate for 2017. Dutch living standards are high (on average); the official unemployment rate is down to 5.4% of the labor force; inflation is low; and the country continues to enjoy a huge net export surplus (of 9% of GDP). Recovery is so robust that De Nederlandsche Bank has   probably been the only central bank in the world that has been calling for higher wages—in the domestic services sector sheltered from international competition, which employs 46% of Dutch workers.[1] While private (household) debt is high, the Dutch hold large stocks of savings in their (capital-based) pension system, which is considered robust enough to cope with its ageing population. The government budget deficit is under control (at less than 1% of GDP), while the public debt-to-GDP ratio has come down to 63% and is manageable, also because the Dutch state can borrow at almost zero interest rates in bond markets. Hence, while the economy has stabilized, Dutch politics looks set to destabilize: Never before has the outcome of elections in the Netherlands been as difficult to predict as this March 15, when 12.6 million voters cast ballots to usher in a new 150-member Lower House. Might the Netherlands, an EU founding member, be the next domino to fall to populism and euro-skepticism, provoking a disintegration of the entire EU?

The Dutch Plight

To understand Dutch political changes, one must first take note of a few structural features of the Dutch political system. The first is that the political spectrum is fragmented or divided into a large number of parties. The Parliament elected in 2012 had 11 parties, and some 28 parties will field candidates for the 2017 election. This political fragmentation has meant that Dutch governments are always coalition-governments, based on the parliamentary support of at least two and often three or more parties.

The present government is a coalition between the Conservatives (VVD) led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the Dutch Labor Party (PVDA). This coalition became a politically viable option in 2012, after the implosion of the Christian Democratic Party (CDA), which had been the traditional center of the Dutch system. The coalition managed to steer the economy through the crisis-years and complete its full four-year term based on fiscal austerity, some labor market deregulation and trade liberalization (in the form of TTIP and CETA). Dutch economic growth was negative in 2012 and 2013 because of the austerity, but turned positive in more recent years when the negative impacts of austerity were more than offset by the growth impulses originating from neighboring Germany’s steady recovery and from a euro that is considerably undervalued from the Dutch-German standpoint. Fiscal pressure on the state was tremendously relieved by the surge in demand for supposedly ‘super-safe’ Dutch sovereign bonds, issued at close-to-zero interest rates following the escalation of the Eurozone crisis. Hence, Dutch macroeconomic recovery has been mostly a ‘free ride’ on Germany’s economic strength and Southern Europe’s continuing malaise.

However, to understand the populist resentment among part of the Dutch electorate, one must recognize that the official ‘macro’ indicators that all point to recovery hide a more complex and less sunny reality on the ground. For one, fiscal austerity, while effective in bringing down the government budget deficit, has meant a continued underfunding and understaffing in healthcare, old-age care and education; a trimming of support schemes for the disabled; cuts in public spending on R&D; and insufficient investment in public transportation, renewable energy systems and affordable (social) housing. These outcomes are in direct conflict with traditional social-democratic values, as the austerity-induced scarcities and rationing in healthcare, education, transportation and housing make daily life more difficult, costly and insecure for the majority of the population—even when these scarcities are not immediately ‘visible’ in the macro indicators. An even bigger unmentioned factor is unemployment. The official Dutch unemployment rate is 5.4% of the labor force (December 2016), but this number does not include the underemployed workers who work part-time, are often self-employed and want to work more hours, nor the so-called ‘discouraged workers’ who have given up looking for a job as there are none.

Recent estimates by the Dutch central bank[2] show that if the underemployed and discouraged workers are included in the counting, the ‘broader’ and more appropriate unemployment rate would be 16% of the labor force—three times as high as the ‘official’ unemployment rate. The fact that about one in six potential workers is without a job or not working the desired hours is just another important example of the austerity-induced weakness of the Dutch economy, not visible in official political discourse. What is left unmentioned as well is that job insecurity in the Netherlands has increased significantly in recent times: the percentage of employees with a ‘secure job’ declined drastically from 56.8% in 2008 to 30.5% in 2014.[3] More than one in five workers is in a temporary job, and about 17% of Dutch employees are self-employed and have to fend for themselves.

The heightened job insecurity is correlated with a higher incidence of mental depression and sharp increases in the usage of anti-depressants and medication.[4] No wonder that Dutch voters, including those from the middle classes, are most anxious about their financial position, their job and economic prospects.[5] These anxieties, when combined with the austerity-induced scarcities, create a fertile feeding ground for anti-elitist right-wing scapegoating, putting the blame on some ‘Other’ (in this case: second-generation migrants from Morocco and recent refugees), while at the same time conjuring up some notion of a shared national purpose and ditto identity (mostly voiced in terms of reclaiming ‘sovereignty’ in opposition to the Brussels’ EU hegemony). The Dutch Labor party (PVDA), which can be seen as the Dutch equivalent of Germany’s SPD and British Labor before Corbyn, is obviously implicated, as it is part of Rutte’s coalition government, sharing the responsibility for the debilitating consequences of its austerity economics.

What Do the Opinion Polls Predict?

In Table 1, the Dutch political landscape has been divided into Right (Conservatives), Centrists, and Left. This will make it easier to interpret the predicted changes. The Table identifies 11 political parties—but I must note that some 28 parties, many of which are new, will field candidates for the 2017 election (the non-listed parties are represented in the Table in the category ‘unclassified’). Let us consider the status quo—as given by the 2012 election result. The current coalition started off in 2012 with 82 out of 150 seats in Dutch parliament: 44 seats for Rutte’s VVD (27.3% of the votes) and 38 seats (25.3% of votes) for the Labor party PVDA. Wilders’ PVV started with 15 seats (based on 10% of the 2012 votes). Table 1 compares the 2012 outcome to the election predictions of five recent major opinion polls. The five polling organizations all use forms of internet-based polling, but as their sampling and weighting methods differ their predictions tend to vary considerably. The differences are structural, as some pollsters consistently predict higher voter shares for some parties than do their competitors. I have simply averaged these five polls—although they are not equally reliable and the standard deviations are not small.

To illustrate, the predicted voter share of the PVV, which is 20.3% on average, varies across the polls between a low of 17.3% and a high of 23.3%, with a large standard deviation of 2.3 percentage points. Historically, the PVV, which was established by Wilders in 2005, peaked at 16% of the votes in the 2010 parliamentary elections and then dropped down to 10% of the voters in the 2012 elections. In the opinion polls in the run-up to the 2017 elections, the PVV peaked at 22.5% of the votes (or 34 seats) in early 2016, when the tensions over the ‘refugee crisis’ were at their peak. Thereafter PVV-support declined to 17% of votes, only to somewhat recover in November-December 2016 after Wilders was found guilty for inciting hatred. That the PVV might actually have peaked too early is suggested by a new opinion poll by CentERdata of Tilburg University, which predicts that the vote share of the PVV in the March 15 elections will only be 16%—the equivalent of 23 seats.[6] However, this poll of January 25 is an outlier compared to the polls included in Table 1, to which I will now return.

Table 1 shows firstly, and perhaps surprisingly, that the combined ‘Conservative’ vote is staying roughly constant, declining from 39.3% of the voters in 2012 to a predicted 38% of voters in March 2017. Pollsters do not predict a ‘turn to the Right’, in other words. However, this stability obscures the fact that the expected support for Prime Minister Rutte’s VVD declines, while support for Wilders’ PVV doubles. Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is expected to go from 10% of votes (15 seats) to 20.3% of votes (30 seats), while the VVD loses, as its support base drops from 29% of voters in 2012 to a predicted 18% now. These shifts point to a reshuffling within the Right—and they also explain why Rutte is ‘toughening’ his stance on immigration, stating that immigrants in the Netherlands should ‘act normal, or leave.’ But Wilders’ influence is even bigger: also PVDA-leader Lodewijk Asscher has been calling for stricter integration, a defense of Dutch ‘identity’ and ‘progressive patriotism.’ I must stress that voters abandoning the VVD are not necessarily moving to Wilders. A substantial part of those abandoning the VVD are now likely to vote Christian-Democrat (CDA) or liberal (D66), but an equally significant fraction is likely to cross over to the PVV.

A second trend is the structural decline of the (combined) Left, from 39.3% of votes in 2012 to only 29.3% of votes expected now. The main driver of this decline is the historically unprecedented implosion of Labor’s PVDA: from 25.3% of votes in 2012 to less than 8% of voters in March. The void left by Labor’s tryst with irrelevance is not filled by a stronger Socialist Party (the more radical, anti-austerity and EU-critical left party which can be seen as the equivalent of Die Linke in Germany): the SP is expected to lose voter share as well, from 10% in 2012 to 9% now. The big winner within the Left is the Green Party (called GroenLinks) which is predicted to attract 10% of the votes in March (up from 4% in 2012). If all this does happen, the Dutch Left will be smaller, more fragmented, and not in a position to challenge, let alone end, the austerity economics.

Table 1: Predicted Shifts in Dutch Parliament

Seats in parliament: Percentage share in votes:
2012 actual 2017 predicted 2012 actual 2017 predicted %-difference
RIGHT: 59 57 39.3 38.0 -1.3
VVD (Rutte) 41 24 27.3 15.7 -11.6
SGP 3 3 2.0 2.0 0.0
PVV (Wilders) 15 30 10.0 20.3 10.3
CENTRE: 32 47 21.3 31.3 10.0
CDA 13 16 8.7 10.9 2.3
CU 5 6 3.3 3.9 0.5
D66 12 15 8.0 10.3 2.3
50+ 2 9 1.3 6.3 4.9
LEFT: 59 44 39.3 29.3 -10.0
PVDA 38 11 25.3 7.5 -17.9
SP 15 13 10.0 8.8 -1.2
GroenLinks 4 16 2.7 10.4 7.7
PvD 2 4 1.3 2.7 1.3
UNCLASSIFIED: 0 2 0.0 1.3 1.3
150 seats 150 seats 100% 100%

Third, the center gains, increasing its vote share from 21.3% in 2012 to 31% now. The recovery of the erstwhile much larger Christian Democrats (CDA) is still fledgling, and the liberal party D66 will likely experience a blip in support. CDA and  D66 are both supportive of the EU and the euro project. The other winner is the more Euro-skeptic party 50Plus: a special interest party campaigning for the retired and 50+ voters. However, combined with the increased support for the Greens (GL), this centripetal shift reflects a strengthening of pro-EU sentiments among the Dutch electorate, which is about as large as the increase in EU-resentment reflected in the growth of Wilders’ PVV. On balance, therefore, it does not look like the Dutch are turning strongly against the EU—when the predictions are correctly read.

What To Make of the Predicted Shifts?

The predicted election outcome points towards even more fragmentation. It is likely that Wilders’ PVV will become the biggest political party in the Netherlands, but with ‘just’ about 21-23% of the votes. The PVV is unlikely to get a higher voter share. One reason is that Wilders’ popular appeal has led to infighting on the right by a number of new right-wing populist initiatives, which cater to the same voters as Wilders and would therefore grow only at the expense of the PVV. The other factor is that 20-24% of the vote appears to represent the size of voters’ support for right-wing populism in Europe: Wilders’ predecessor, Pim Fortuyn, obtained 17% of the votes in 2002, while in France National Front’s Marine Le Pen is currently having the support of 25% of voters in the run-up to the French presidential election. The maximum voter share in parliamentary elections of the Austrian FPÖ was 26.9% (in 1999), but more recent support is around 21% of voters. It is not likely that Wilders will break through this ceiling of 22-24% of voter share. Wilders’ one-member party cannot form a government on its own, and since all others have ruled out working with him, it will be impossible for him to form a government. However, Wilders coming in first, even if he cannot form a coalition, does take on significance in the larger European context, as it will be used in France to further bolster Le Pen’s presidential campaign and in Germany as another vote of no-confidence in the immigration policies of German chancellor Merkel. This is the real risk.

The Left is in deep crisis and, for want of credible alternative ideas, basically irrelevant. The one element within the Left that could claim some momentum are the Greens (GL), who otherwise tend to be quite like ‘New Labor’ in terms of their economic policies. There is a risk that the disillusionment with the Left will push voters who traditionally vote PVDA or Socialist Party (SP), toward the PVV, as their traditional vote would be a certain loser. After all, Wilders is offering simple, straightforward solutions, such as ‘taking back control from Brussels’, ‘sovereignty’ and ‘protecting traditional values and identities’, to what in essence are defensible and reasonable economic and social fears—as I argued above. Or disappointed voters may decide not to cast their vote. This would help the PVV, assuming that its ‘angry’ voter base does come to the ballot box.

The outcome is a stalemate: Wilders will cry victory and claim the right to start forming a government (as would be normal parliamentary custom). But then he will fail, as no one will join him in this attempt. It is true that 75% of Dutch voters believe[7] that Mark Rutte will backslide on his promise to rule out the VVD joining a coalition with Wilders—‘zero percent chance’—but it does not appear to be in his interest to be the ‘junior’ partner in a government led by PM Wilders. What is more, PVV and VVD are unlikely to enjoy a parliamentary majority and will need a third or fourth coalition partner, which seems even less likely to happen. Hence, what happens next will be unclear. The PVDA will probably abstain, as it is in existential crisis and in no position to act. Rutte’s Conservative party (VVD) will lose, but remain the biggest party after the PVV. Most likely, the VVD will try to form a new coalition, probably with ‘winners’ CDA and D66 and the Greens (GL), but this coalition of four parties still has no majority and will need a fifth party (the party 50+ or the small Christian Union, CU, or the PVDA). If the final election results are anything close to the prediction of Table 1, it will take long to form this center-right government and it may not be stable and not last long. Predictably, Wilders will cry foul, claiming that this coalition without him does not represent the ‘will of the people’. Two things are bound to remain unchanged, however: Dutch macroeconomic policy will remain in austerity mode, prolonging and deepening the artificial scarcities of jobs and inequalities in access to health care, education and housing. This will in turn further fertilize the feeding ground for anti-elitist, anti-euro right-wing scapegoating in the mode of Wilders. Final disclaimer: This note gives the views of the author based on the predictions in Table 1, which may turn out to be wrong. Remember Brexit and the American presidential election.


[1] DNB. 2016. “Arbeidsinkomensruimte vooral in op het binnenland georiënteerde bedrijfstakken.” DNBulletin November 21.

[2] DNB. 2016. “Arbeidsmarkt ruimer dan werkloosheid doet vermoeden.” DNBulletin February 25.

[3] Van der Meer, P., Th. Van Huizen and J. Plantenga. 2016. “De invloed van baanonzekerheid op mentale gezondheid.” Economisch-Statistische Berichten 101 (4725), pp. 26-29.

[4] Van der Meer, P., Th. van Huizen and J. Plantenga. 2016, ibidem.; and  Buffel, V.,  R. Dereuddre and P. Bracke. 2015. “Medicalization of the uncertainty? An empirical study of the relationships between unemployment or job insecurity, professional care seeking, and the consumption of antidepressants.” European Sociological Review 31 (4): 446-459.

[5] See:

[6] See:

[7] Smolka, Klaus Max. 2017. “Kann Wilders noch gestoppt werden?”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 4.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Thanks for this, an excellent overview. I had wondered why the populist right were doing so well in the Netherlands when all the economic figures I’d seen indicated that the country was doing reasonably ok, and certainly benefiting from the euro weakness, this explains it very clearly.

    1. Foppe

      Part of the problem is that wealth isn’t measured, but estimated, since 2001 or so, which helps the figures immensely. Same goes for un(der)employment, as Storm explains.
      The Netherlands and Germany are fairly similar on the employment front: lots and lots of underemployment and non-measurement to skew the figures and shrink the labor pool, to keep our “competitiveness” intact to the detriment of the people living there. I’d say Germans is doing worse work/income-wise, but afaik housing is a lot cheaper there than here, so on the overall CoL-front it’s probably a toss-up. That said, the political landscape is quite different, partly because of how German federal elections work (iirc you need >5% of the votes to be in parliament), partly because of different expectations due to the reunification.

    2. Katharine

      But when have the standard economic figures given an accurate representation of life as experienced by most people? (If someone knows of instances, do please say.) My first thought would be, never. It is surely at least partly because neoliberals take those indicators as reality instead of listening to people that they are so hopelessly irrelevant in the U.S., and my impression from limited information is that the problem is more widespread.

    3. drexciya

      A practical example would be the fact that people manage to find a new job, but that job would pay signifiantly less than their previous job. That’s something which is pretty common nowadays, especially if you are a somewhat older employee. This is something, which is not reflected in the average economic figures at all.

      To make matters worse, as Foppe also noted, housing is pretty expensive in The Netherlands, and if you aren’t eligible for “social housing”, you’ll pay a hefty sum just to get a roof above your head. With stagnating wages and ever increasing taxes, this doesn’t really work as a confidence builder.

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you for this post. I also second PK’s comment.

    These local perspectives are great as there is little coverage of the non-anglo-american/saxon world in the anglophone MSM, especially with so many political risk events coming up.

    It would be great to get French and German perspectives throughout the year.

    I often forward links to NC to family and friends around the world. The ones who are not anglophone have little alternative to their MSM.

  3. Colonel Smithers

    I would say that the paragraphs titled “The Dutch Plight” apply equally to the UK and France (especially la France profonde) – and probably to the US from my observations off the beaten track when visiting, business and pleasure, and, but stand to be corrected by US readers.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Foppe.

        I had forgotten about Gerd Schroeder’s reforms. Herren Hartz and Schroeder certainly like the good life. They want / like the good things in life, but don’t want anyone else to have such things. The rot started when Oskar Lafontaine was ousted.

    1. Anonymous2

      In the wider context here, I have just been reading reviews of Age of Anger by Mishra. It sounds as though it might interest some.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Is that Pankaj Mishra? If yes, he was a contemporary of Cameron at Oxford and married Cameron’s cousin, Mary Mount.

          1. Anonymous2

            Yes it is Pankaj. I did not know about the Cameron link. I may read it and report if no one else has already. It is described by one as a wake up call to rediscover our common humanity so may have some merit.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you.

              I enjoy reading his articles in the Guardian. There’s not much else worth reading there.

        1. Anonymous2

          Many thanks. An interesting talk. I see links with the thinking of Rene Girard, for those who are interested in such matters. None of which is exactly reassuring. Perhaps we are heading towards a major crisis?

    2. Clive

      I agree — I had absolutely no idea, none whatsoever — about the political landscape in the Netherlands until I read this piece just now. And I like to consider myself extremely well informed on not just national but global matters too. The only thing I have ever come across on BBC (with no information of any sort on any of the other MSM outputs that I’ve ever seen) is along the lines of “oh, Holland, that’s all so marvellous there, they’ve got great cycling infrastructure”. And Holland is our second-nearest neighbour.

      There was something on Channel 4 News on the Dutch far right a few months back, but even there it was all personality-based (Wilders) with the usual lefty media ghetto trick of turning anyone who isn’t cosy and cuddly in a Obama/Clinton way into some kind of hideous monster. Wilders might be just that, but without knowing the background you just have knee jerking and pearl clutching.

      1. Clive

        (this was supposed to be a reply to your original 04:25 comment but I clicked on the wrong “Reply” link and can’t be arsed to faff around and move it up!)

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Many thanks, Clive.

          On another note, I wonder if we have worked for the same TBTF bank at Canary Wharf.

          1. Clive

            No, I never had to venture down to the real den of inequity (Canary Wharf). So I guess I didn’t slum it with the worst of the streetwalkers like you did! (not, mind you, that my TBTF is like a paragon of virtue…)

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, Clive.

              I have done time at the Home for Scottish Bank Clerks, Bony M and the Blue Eagle and currently serving at the bank that has lost its passion to perform.

      2. Foppe

        Cheer up, Clive. As everywhere else where people who write about socio-economic issues have taken neoclassical economics classes that teach you that globalization is inevitable etc, the MSM in NL also refuses to tie this together, and makes frequent attempts to muddy the waters by featuring opinions-as-facts that “none of these developments explain — read: justify — people feeling abandoned by the center; and anyway, is it really so bad?”. (Because you have to be content with your least-worst-of-all-possible-lives, as this is the best we can do while being fiscally responsible adults.)

      3. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Clive.

        Your comment about the limited coverage of Holland also applies to Scandinavia, the usual great infrastructure, social services, wilkommenskultur etc.

  4. Foppe

    Smallish point: it may be that Rutte doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Wilders, but ‘if circumstances dictate’ he could also just pull a Cameron and hand the keys to the VVD to someone who will. Wilders may be fickle, but he votes with the VVD in nearly all instances that matter to the VVD (his alma mater) — i.e., any policies that would cost money / might affect the health of the swamp. So it would all depend on what the VVD can stomach, when it comes to explicitly (rather than tacitly) endorsing that xenophobe who has for the past decade neatly distracted anyone and everyone from socioeconomics by way of ethnicity-baiting.

    1. fajensen

      Doesn’t matter, the jackals and the vultures will always agree on that more deer should be killed, they only argue over who eats what part of the meat.

      Like these folk: -this is the leader of the “Social Democrats” (S) a former workers party long since turned Neo-Liberal and “Dansk Folkeparti” (DF), which is anti-immigration in general, anti-islam specifically and quite like Wilders.

      These former “opponents” are now joined together because S will use DF as a tool to destroy any remnants of the flexicurity system. It works like it always does: DF will claim that “muzzies are spongin off all the welfare”, S+DF will agree that “reforms are needed”, said reforms will screw over Everybody “DF will say “Of Course, we are not a Racist Party””, S will say “Sorry, But, We need to be competitive in the global marketplace”

  5. Colonel Smithers

    Just a couple of things to add:

    The coverage of Wilders and now Fillon in MSM like the Guardian, Independent, FT and Channel 4 often focuses on their Catholic backgrounds, as if it is something to be ashamed of. Plus the convert to Catholicism who runs the True Finns party. In the 1980s and 1990s, the same MSM would cover Northern Irish Protestants the same way. It’s as if Catholics can’t be progressive, an issue Plutonium Kun recently commented on. When I mention to female friends (all HRC supporters) that I have cousins who are nuns and helping to run an orphanage in Bujumbura and a soup kitchen in Detroit, they are staggered. Who forced them to become nuns? Is my family patriarchal? It’s an outrage that they have to cover up. They do sometimes, e.g. when the Australian in Detroit met the Pope on his US visit a couple of years ago.

    In contrast, Linda Sarsour’s religion, attire and views are venerated by the MSM. Perhaps, their political risk insurance has a limitation. I will ask my friends at Lloyds across the road from my other office.

    BTW Wilders’ hair has received the Trump treatment / mockery for years. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    1. Foppe

      (Idpol is) Just another consequence of the taboo status of distributive politics; since they won’t criticize their politics (because reasonable, realistic), but still have to churn out words, words is what we get.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Certainly in some countries, anti-catholicism is one of those bigotries that dare not speak its name – you need only look at the laws covering royal succession in any number of north European countries and Britain to see that keeping the catholic ‘stain’ away from power and the elite was a major driving factor. Of course, it was also a cover for bigotry against immigrants coming from poorer countries, whether Ireland or southern Europe. Within British intellectual circles, especially the new Athiests like Dawkins, its noticeable how they often make ‘religion’ and ‘catholicism’ synonymous. Dawkins has a near obsession with catholicism, which is very wierd for an athiest from an Protestant high church background, in a country where the head of State is also head of the established church. He loves to make fun of the Pope, but remains strangely silent over the religious establishment of his Oxford college. Its impossible not to see it as an underlying soft bigotry – not as poisonous or lethal historically as anti-semitism, but coming from the same foul place. But its a bigotry which is still acceptable in ‘liberal’ circles, as any casual reading of the Guardian would show.

      As for your mention of nuns, I do somethings love to wind up aa certain type of athiest by pointing out the role of nuns and priests in driving progressive policies in many parts of the world, not least 19th Century America. It was mostly Irish catholics who broke open the public school system to non-Protestants (mostly by setting up better schools in opposition) and forced the early US to take secularism seriously (it was mostly a cover at the time for an overtly protestant State). Likewise, it was agitation in Ireland which largely broke the iron grip of the established church in the UK in the 19th Century.

      Sorry for wandering off topic….

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK. I am delighted that you did and enjoy reading your comments.

        There is no need to apologise.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Speaking of the head of the UK state being head of the church of England, not even in Iran or Saudi Arabia is the leading cleric the head of state :-).

      3. JTFaraday

        Isn’t resistance to the EU somewhat like resistance to Catholicism? ie., consolidating local and/or national self governance vs a distant power, sometimes (if not usually) under the sign of God?

        And isn’t this where western right wing nationalism’s understanding of similarly right wing Islaomofascism goes wrong?

  6. The Trumpening

    The Labour Party (PvdA) in the Netherlands has a new leader, Lodewijk Asscher, who is attempting to stop the hemorrhaging of the indigenous Dutch working class away from Labour and towards Wilder:

    From the Guardian, no less:

    Asscher writes, however, that radical reform of the current EU rules on immigration are needed. “Wage-lowering labour migration in Europe nowadays leads to unequal competition between workers,” he writes.

    “Migration leads to tension within and between communities. And this lack of control cannot be diminished by making forced efforts to emphasise a European identity. For this we need unity in diversity. Progressive patriotism is the required antidote not only against the nationalist and xenophobic politics, but also as an alternative for the politics that ridicules or even throws suspicion on the longing for community or national identity.”

    In his letter to socialist leaders, Asscher specifies reform of the EU’s posted-workers directive, which allows companies to pay foreign workers less than locals who benefit from collective bargaining, as a priority. Corbyn has also repeatedly said that this is the goal of the British Labour party.

    Asscher also suggests a broader rethink of the left’s attitude to immigration. “For too many people, the European Union has become the symbol of social injustice, which fades its enormous achievement of peace and cooperation into the background, he writes. “Is it strange that people are fed up with the EU? I believe not.

    Cynics (like me) would claim that as the working classes abandon Labour, these parties must search fror replacement voters, and are therefore forced to double down on being pro-immigration, which only increases the bleeding. What’s interesting in the Netherlands is that an immigrant party, DENK, has recently formed. They don’t seem to be polling so well so I’m not sure how much of an impact they will have. But you could understand the new concerns that the Socialist / Labour parties would have that while their championing of immigration is causing them to lose the working classes and to then at the same time to see the immigrants forming their own parties which if successful would leave the Socialists with hardly any voters at all!

    With Geert Wilders calling for increased health care spending and a lowering of the retirement age along with Labour’s backing away from immigration, is it too much to think that there could be a possible coalition between these two unlikely partners?

    1. Foppe

      To clarify: The Socialist Party doesn’t champion immigration at all, they just that immigrants shouldn’t be blamed for policy choices made by a lot of parties very much including the PvdA. Problem is that there’s no national solution to that anyway, since the problem is formed by the dysfunctional former east-bloc countries having been allowed in without those societies having anything much to offer by way of a decent standard of living after they lost their employer of last resort in/around 1990.

      Denk will be a bit player at best, Artikel 1 is the more positive version of that proposed party.

      As for Wilders and increased HC spending: his voting record tells a different story, not that the MSM pay much attention to that.

      1. Foppe

        (To state the obvious: the PvdA does absolutely nothing to prevent unfair competition by using subcontractors domiciled in E-Europe, whose wages, benefits, etc. are all determined by the country where the company is located, not where the human works. Huge problem in trucking especially. Tnink also of Ikea.)

      2. visitor

        From the figures above and your comments, it seems that both the Netherlands and France will see the foundering of their once mighty socialist parties into at least short to medium term irrelevance — just like happened in Greece and in Finland.

        Pasokification is a frequent punishment for social-democrats who betrayed their constituency for neo-liberalism.

        1. Foppe

          If only, with regard to the Labour Party (although it’s never marketed itself as socialist — always as SocDem/US Liberal). I’m not sure pasokication can happen in a country where there’s always multiparty rule, as that has thus far always allowed the PvdA to claim “reluctance” in playing along with the other neoliberal parties in the coalitions of which they’ve been part, and it’s not yet led to mass walkouts by its base.
          Another part of the problem is that the media and academia (including the author of this article, I’d guess) are staunchly dismissive of the Dutch Socialist Party, which basically never gets more than token (non-hostile) coverage, so that it’s barely known that they have a coherent alternative to offer.

  7. Ignacio

    Quite an excellent analysis!!!

    Political uncertainty, driven in this case by wild fragmentation is the word to describe the situation. In other european countries although not so much fragmented, uncertainty is also the rule. Quite opposite to the US where there are only two parties and the uncertainty is transferred to the primaries that look more important than the general election itself to shape the political landscape.

    It seems to me that what is common in The Netherlands and the rest of the EU, is that changing electorate preferences are not matched with correspondent changes in the political landscape or leadership. Politicians are well behind the curve and this will almost certainly result in lack of action, business as usual, and further disenchantment. In this sense, although I disliked the electoral result in the US, the democratic system looks more robust and capable of change through the primary selection process of candidates.

    Broad coalitions between politicians with quite different views and interests cannot deliver.

    1. Sneezy

      The reason that the current political landscape in the Netherlands is so fragmented is due to the response to the changing preferences of the electorate.
      Most of the 16 new parties (The 17th is a joke that has only registered in a small part of the nation) are one issue parties. There is the Pirate Party for example with the focus on privacy, there is a new christian party that considers the SGP not christian enough (and the SGP was threatened with delisting as political party if they kept using their fundamentalist interpretation of the bible as a guide on how to operate the SGP).
      But what normally happens in that the big established parties pick up on those signals and alter their party program to incorporate those cues and making these one issue parties go away by essentially hijacking the reason for their, the one issue parties, existence. That has not happened this election cycle.

      Oh and I hope that that was a joke about the primary selection process of candidates in the US.
      I mean you get to chose between a group of people approved by the party you vote for (due to the massive amounts of money and connections it normally takes at the federal level), meaning that they all have roughly the same goals as the party. And neither party wants change they want to stay in power.

  8. Colonel Smithers

    It will be interesting to read comments from the Americas when readers get online. I suspect that the coverage readers get of Europe and elsewhere is similar to what the above comments detail.

    1. oho

      the mainstream media party line regarding the Continental countries, especially the Scanda-Saxon arc, is that they are all a land of milk, honey and humanist harmony.

      (one reason I was surprised to see so much graffiti and dog poo on the sidewalks when I first visited Paris many years ago)

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Oho.

        The city is much better now. London is, too, to be fair. On the whole, I think France is in better / less bad shape than the UK.

        I am in Paris on business and pleasure next week and the week after.

  9. european

    Good article, but it does contain one small error:

    The maximum voter share in parliamentary elections of the Austrian FPÖ was 26.9% (in 1999), but more recent support is around 21% of voters.

    The latter is wrong. The support for the FPÖ is currently at about 33%. It is very likely that the FPÖ will be the strongest party in Austria after the next election, which will (at latest) be held in 2018.

    1. Dirk77

      I am puzzled by the comment that there is some upper limit of people who will vote for these nationalist parties. The author points out that all the other parties, excepting possibly the Greens, are philosophically bankrupt. Isn’t it then just a matter of time?

      So if nationalism is the way the world throws off neoliberalism, what then?

      1. european

        Wasn’t Trump supposed to have an upper limit as well?

        FPÖ-candidate Hofer got 46% at the second round of the presidential election last year.

      2. Foppe

        Yes, well, about that. What the Greens mostly have going for themselves are 2 things: 1. youthful exuberance, energy, and the appearance of a realistic alternative program. 2. a campaign style that has been copied nearly wholesale from one Barack Obama, to such an extent that I wonder if they’re paying him royalties. With regards to the question whether they are going to deliver on their promises, however, I’m not so sanguine, as their commitment to non-market-solutions so far is only a paper one. (This not to say they aren’t going to grow, but that it seems to me not unreasonable to worry that they’re just trying to replace the labor party in everything, if not deliberately then because they lack the experience / intellectual awareness of the contours of the problem.
        The SP, on the other hand, is not at all philosophically bankrupt, but they’ve got a big issue with branding, and because journalists loathe the party. As such, they get barely any airtime, and hardly anyone (including Servaas Storm) bothers to look at what they have to offer.

          1. Foppe

            SP is Marxist/socialist; a small subset may self-identify with ‘communist’, but I doubt many do. Certainly not SocDem.

  10. Seamus Padraig

    However, to understand the populist resentment among part of the Dutch electorate, one must recognize that the official ‘macro’ indicators that all point to recovery hide a more complex and less sunny reality on the ground … Dutch unemployment rate is 5.4% of the labor force (December 2016), but this number does not include the underemployed workers who work part-time, are often self-employed and want to work more hours, nor the so-called ‘discouraged workers’ who have given up looking for a job as there are none.

    Same story all over the West–has been for years now. Most of the official statistics parroted by governments and the media are a fraud. If you follow Paul Craig Roberts or John Williams (, you’ll see how the establishment comes up with these ‘alternative facts’.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Oho.

      The piece and Nigel Farage’s comments, including at the European Parliament today, got little coverage apart from the Daily Mail. I did not see anything in the continental francophone MSM.

      1. oho

        one point to note re. the Chatham House poll—-I can’t find the detailed methodology/survey results–which normally is easily findable and provided as a courtesy.

        a poll covering 10,000 respondents + 10 countries would be a boon for research.

        it ‘smells’ like the results of polling would be embarrassing to the open borders/globalists narrative.

        1. drexciya

          They have been embarrassing themselves all the time. They’ve been lying through their teeth, some examples:
          – “We need immigration” No, we don’t need low educated people who will mostly be a drag on our social security system (certain groups score as high as 70% welfare dependency).
          – “They’re refugees” No, most of these so called refugees are migrants.

          On top of that, there has been no proper vetting (which has recently been acknowledged by Dutch politicians). As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise that in the refugee centres there have been acts of violence against gays and christians. This went as far as making it necessary to relocate gay refugees to other locations. Also, politicians have failed with expelling people who don’t qualify for refugee status.

          Add some terrorist attacks and any form of support for immigration is eroded, as the poll shows. People don’t have a problem with actual real refugees. Politicians and open border activists (like the infamous Soros NGOs) are to blame for this, not the average person.

          1. fajensen

            No, we don’t need low educated people who will mostly be a drag on our social security system (certain groups score as high as 70% welfare dependency).
            Yes, “we” do.

            If “our” actual goal is to fracture universal support for “socialist” welfare programs, “prove” that everything we actually pay taxes for is “unsustainable” and therefore must be cut down and privatised then importing millions of criminals and idiots who will overload the system and then keep overloading by importing forever more, whenever the last lot, against the the odds, actually acclimatises and somehow disproves ideology on all sides.

            It is a persistent attack on our economy, our values, democracy in general and humanism, not to forget. I believe that rolling European societies back to feudal times is the end goal.

            Wilders is not the proper response IMO. However, thanks to the razing to the ground of any kind of political thinking that is not full-on neo-liberal, then Wilders is currently the *only* effective response. Apart, from …. you know.

  11. flora

    Thanks very much for this post. It’s difficult to find any in-depth analysis of EU politics in the US press.

    “However, to understand the populist resentment among part of the Dutch electorate, one must recognize that the official ‘macro’ indicators that all point to recovery hide a more complex and less sunny reality on the ground.”

    This could have been written about the US electorate, too.

    1. Clive

      Yes, thought that too (great minds think alike) but for the U.K. electorate as well. I think it’s Lambert that puts it “whose recovery?”

      1. ChrisPacific

        It seems like the Powers That Be, in the effort to create a (largely fictional) story about how great everything is, forgot to take into account their own tendency towards groupthink and ended up believing their own propaganda. The Titanic is just fine, the tilting deck is an optical illusion, and the rising water will surely be cleaned up by custodial staff any minute now. The real problem is all these people who keep running about with panicked expressions and shouting about implausible doomsday scenarios. Seriously, what’s that all about? They sound positively deranged.

  12. shinola

    Good article – I appreciate the non-US/UK/France point of view. We don’t get much of that in Kansas.

    I would add that the comments from readers “across the pond” are interesting & informative. I’ve been made a bit less ignorant today.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Shinola.

      I know little of the Mid-West and West, apart from the big cities, so appreciate in particular comments from those regions.

    1. Foppe

      Yes, but austerity feeds the fear/xenophobia, and the past 4y have seen about 47bn in spending cuts / (regressive) tax increases, because they could.

    2. fajensen

      Immigration drives Austerity for the 60% with not very well paid jobs, and who are in need of public services like housing, public schools, income support. The affordable housing gets filled with immigrants and becomes ghettos, welfare spending goes way up.

      Then “financially responsible politicians” will “need to do something” – excluding all of the other options available, they begin to cut down on welfare, harsher and ever harsher qualification criteria is enforced.

      People who need the welfare state will experience that everywhere is clogged up with immigrants and that they now will face the Spanish Inquisition over their work injury after “paying taxes for X-years” because of too many immigrants blatantly* taking the piss.

      Many people will of course see immigration as the source of all their recent troubles, because it totally is!

      That this situation is engineered* to be so, doesn’t help someone now having to do years of “job evaluation” with zero pension, before that lower back injury is finally recognised.

      *) Blatantly, because the Engineering: No point in having a message if it cannot be communicated clearly! So, we all have similar cases of Roma, Somali, Pakistani pedo-groomers … whatever, as long as they are obnoxious repeat offenders for the 5 minutes of hate sessions in media.

      They are kept mostly unmolested by “the authorities”, I believe, specifically for that precise purpose. So that someone will be there to take the bullets when the elites are finally done strip-mining society.

  13. ChrisAtRU

    Congrats Neolibs! You’ve turned the world into a shit-hole, and it’s going to be Trumps/Farages/LePens/Wilders all the way down!

      1. oho

        that should be a bumper sticker on college campus bicycles. But it might trigger some people in their safe spaces.

  14. Sound of the Suburbs

    The extremes come into play when the mainstream doesn’t deliver.

    People like Mr Wilders don’t appear out of nowhere.

    London’s metropolitan elite were detached from the rest of the UK and only after the Brexit referendum
    did they find the JAMs (Just about managing, the working poor).

    Trump has appealed to those abandoned by the neoliberal left and now runs the country.

    The Trump graph:

    This graph says productivity gains haven’t been passed onto workers since 1973, the working poor.

    If you are part of a detached elite the headline stats. have been hiding a multitude of sins.

    The working poor don’t show up in the stats. but they do vote.

    1. Gman

      ‘The working poor don’t show up in the stats,but they do vote’

      What’s most alarming is the number of of ‘liberals’ post Brexit and Trump who think they should no longer be allowed.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        I read the UK liberal press mainly to see what they are thinking, e.g. the Guardian and FT.

        Liberals don’t take any responsibility for their own mistakes and the problem is the populists who are not very clever and mis-informed by fake news.

        Their reactions to Brexit and Trump have been extreme, but without the slightest self-awareness of their own failing (maybe one of two articles do take some responsibility but this is a very small percentage).

        Personally, I think this whole neoliberal thing is an empire of debt based consumption and over-inflated asset prices, it should collapse very soon.

        The sooner the better, the longer it goes on the worse it will be in the end.

        With the next financial collapse, I think even the neo-liberals ideologues will have to realise they are wrong. Though they do seem to have an infinite capacity for placing the blame elsewhere, they will probably try, but I can’t believe they can get away with it again.

        It is typical psychopathic behaviour.

        They never take responsibility for anything so they never learn from their mistakes.

        As a consequence they keep repeating the same mistakes.

        They are effortlessly charming and persuasive and always have an excuse for what went wrong.
        It is their track record that gives them away, the trail of wreckage that they leave behind. bust 2008, the Middle East, the Euro-zone, the new normal of secular stagnation …….

        Iraq, Libya, Syria ….. doing the same thing over and over again leaving a trail of wreckage behind.

        1. Gman

          Neoliberalism, in spite of the numerous claims to the contrary I have read, is not that difficult to define and as an ideology, if it indeed, can be called that, has become accepted economic wisdom by ALL mainstream political parties of ALL persuasions and that goes a significant way to explaining the fracturing political climate.

          Even people who aren’t interested in the nuances and finer points of political and economic debate recognise blatantly unfair engineered net outcomes when they see them because they experience, or more accurately endure them on a daily basis. Whether we choose to call it ‘neoliberalism’, the ‘free market’ or ‘Brian’ matters nary a jot to them. Something stinks, it’s not by accident and they know it.

          I share your cynicism and fear for the future, but am not so sure that many of those who extol, perpetrate and perpetuate its increasingly selective benefits are quite as well-intentioned and/or ignorant of its outcomes as you suggest, but I admire your magnanimity.

  15. dw

    i wonder if the Dutch are any better prepared to separate than the Greeks were before them? after its easy (make that easier) to do it, if your are UK who kept their own currency, its a lot harder to do if you didnt. so deciding to leave entails a lot more than just political will, it entails a lot of work and lots of (what currency I have no idea) to leave.

  16. Sound of the Suburbs

    A neoliberal Left are driving a global shift to the right.

    The headline stats. are missing the working poor, leaving the elites in a state of shock over Brexit and Trump.

    After Brexit the Conservatives find the JAMs, the working poor.

    The Trump graph:

    This graph says productivity gains haven’t been passed onto US workers since 1973, the working poor.

    The neoliberal Left refuse to acknowledge the problem and desperately try and place the blame elsewhere, e.g. Russian hacking, fake news, populists, the deplorables, xenophobes, misogynists, racists, homophobes ………

    The neoliberal refusal to acknowledge the problem, just leaves them behind as the world moves on.

    It’s their funeral, leave them to it.

    1. Lambert Strether

      There’s no such thing as a neoliberal left, exactly as there’s no such thing as a an “atheist Jesuit,” or any of the oxymoronic jokes about “military music,” “military intelligence.”

    2. Sound of the Suburbs

      The misleading stats. leading to shocked global elites.

      The jobless figures look good, the working poor are not unemployed.

      The other figures are held up by the 1% and the exponentially rising rewards within the 1%.

      The bias of rewards towards the 1% makes it a democratic time bomb.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        “Top Ex-White House Economist Admits 94% Of All New Jobs Under Obama Were Part-Time”

        The democratic time bomb is primed on their watch.

        1. River

          Heard similar on the radio last week on the way to work. 40,000 jobs added, 30K above the projected 10K that was hoped for. As the broadcast continued. 842 were full time, the rest part time…this was for January 2017.

          So, in reality 842 jobs were added. Far below the projections. This is in Canada.

  17. Hemang

    The assertion that ‘the sentiment blowing across the Netherlands through a voter swing to the right’ misses the characteristics of this wind blowing across the Netherlands, obviously emboldened by the Brexit and Trump elections: The wind is ‘far-right-anti-Islamic’ only in rhetoric. Every mass movement requires a ‘culprit’ or a scapegoat whose flocks always graze readily in the mental fields of history. But this rhetoric against the Muslims is only a thread in the carpet creating the whirlwind; the real anger of the wind is triggered by the collective jealousies of the Dutch majority population who are bombarded with the signs of prosperity of a miniscule minority leading ‘the European good life’. Putting aside the claptrap presented by Mr. Servaas Storm on grounds of incomprehension, one can describe the blowing wind as a revolt of the majority against the ‘Good Life Minority’ which gathers more rhetorical intensity in the electoral arena by taking the Muslim ‘outsiders’ in its sweep. For proof, I cite instances in European history of last hundred years starting with the National Socialist Party in Germany grabbing power in early 1930s after a decade at electoral politics. Attempts at describing the new wind in terms of old bottles of ‘the left’ and ‘the right’ simply add to incomprehension of the wind characteristics and nature. Of course, the predictions of the author’s Table 1 are likely to be wrong facing such winds! Never underestimate both the selfishness in each one of us and the lust for power in politicians. The unfolding scenario also tells the story of what happens when masses of people are addicted to mass consumption. Mr. Storm has gone on the terrace of the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden to announce to the world that indeed the discipline of ‘Economics’ is silly and delusional with a tendency to put its foot in the mouth always trying to bite more than it can chew. And I am not surprised in the least by the current events- after all it was this very same rich nation of traders that had not been able to look after a great artist like van Gogh.

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