It was unavoidable that GroenLinks MP Wijnand Duyvendak should resign because of his past as an environmental activist.
Duyvendak waited until his involvement in a break-in at the economic affairs ministry was too old to be prosecuted before writing about his past in a new book. But that book has still brought about his downfall.
At first it appeared he had survived the mid-summer storm. But a letter to a newspaper from a top civil servant at the ministry at the time was the final straw.
A call by a squatters’ magazine urging activists to ‘disturb’ officials involved in the nuclear programme was effectively a call to ‘terrorise’, said former ministry top dog George Verberg. His own home had been the subject of an arson attempt. Duyvendak was editor of the magazine at the time.
At this point, Duyvendak had no choice but to stand down. He says he had to leave so he can clear his name. But after being accused of encouraging terrorism, his political position was untenable.
Many people have things in their past which they regret or would prefer to put down to youthful naivety. Duyvendak has learned to his cost how our past can come back to haunt us.
Yet the Netherlands must not go down the same road as the US and Britain, where politicians have to be perfect and their pasts are picked over for every slip of the tongue. That would be far more dangerous for democracy.
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