Can they really be so devious? Have Labour MPs really done a deal and agreed not to press for a new EU referendum in return for their ministers’ commitment not to support the cabinet’s redundancy law plans?
There are an awful lot of confidential sources and insiders who are telling the parliamentary press that this is exactly what has happened.
Making deals and reaching compromises is very much the essence of Dutch politics because the electoral system always produces a coalition government. But Labour have got themselves into a terrible mess over the referendum issue.
All but six of the party’s 32 MPs have done a U-turn and decided that a public vote is not necessary after all. Supporting the referendum would have led to a cabinet crisis, pitting Labour against its coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie.
Now another crisis looms – and again Labour MPs are at the heart of it. But even if social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner does amend his redundancy proposals to suit Labour, you can bet it will only be just enough to head off another Labour rebellion.
The next highly controversial issue on the cards – extending the participation of Dutch troops in Afghanistan past 2008 – is also likely to provoke a CDA-Labour split.
In the short life of this government, the toughest job is being done by Labour leader and finance minister Wouter Bos. He has had a lot more difficulty keeping his own members in order than he has with dealing with anyone from the opposition.
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