Last Friday secretary of state of Defense Jack de Vries (CDA) resigned over his affair with his adjutant. It turns out De Vries has been conducting an affair with her for a while, and his wife has kicked him out of the house. Earlier last week, when the affair became known, he announced that he would end his political life after the elections, but after pressure was brought on him by the military trade unions (as well as, one assumes, his own party, with the annual CDA Family Day approaching), he decided to resign immediately.
Despite his rather lowly status as secretary of state, De Vries was a very powerful man in the CDA. A personal friend of Balkenende, he ran the CDA campaign in the 2006 elections and became known as the best spin doctor in Dutch politics. It was his idea to picture PvdA leader Bos as a turncoat, and it was also his idea to celebrate the CDA’s loss of three seats as an election victory. (Granted, the CDA remained the largest party, but it’s rare to depict a loss as a win.)
He entered government in 2007, when the previous secretary of state of Defense left to become mayor of the eastern town of Ede. His main political headache was the JSF project, in which the Netherlands (along with other countries) promised to invest money in the US-led JSF project that was going to deliver new combat airplanes. The project has been stalled for a long time, and it turns out the eventual American plane is going to become distinctly more expensive than a European option. Therefore the JSF project has been criticised for years and years, with especially CDA and VVD demanding we keep to the project. De Vries handled all this rather deftly, but a solution has not yet been found.
In general Dutch politics is less obsessed with the personal morality of politicians than the US. Rumours abound about several politicians, but in general private affairs are seen as — well — private, unless their antics make them sensitive for blackmail or impede their functioning as a politician.
Initially the CDA didn’t want to react to the affair, either, citing politicians’ right to a private life. However, the spectacle of the architect of the CDA’s family value approach conducting an extra-marital affair was too much: De Vries had to go.
Politically speaking his resignation is only small change. The CDA is doing lousy in the polls right now, and although De Vries’s resignation will not exactly help them, it’s just one item in a long litany of things that go wrong for the christian-democrats. On the other hand, nothing prevents De Vries for continuing to play an important background role in the CDA campaign, as long as he doesn’t actually appear on TV.
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This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.