For a fistful of dollars

Is it any wonder that the public have little trust in their politicians when they sway to the demands of big business so easily? asks Robin Pascoe

Two current news stories are the perfect explanation of why people are becoming more and more disollusioned with their elected politicians.
Firstly, there are the cowardly councillors of Noord-Brabant province, where five members of the free market Liberal party VVD decided to approve the sale of energy firm Essent to Germany’s RWE after all.
The fact that any VVD councillors opposed the sale of the province’s all-important 30% stake during the first vote a few weeks ago was quite a surprise.
But there is was. Plucky little Noord-Brabant holding out against the mighty RWE and all its coal-scented euros. All eyes were on the province.
But then, along comes one VVD councillor – a certain Annemarie Moons – with the news that RWE might be happy with fewer than 80% of the shares. A last minute discovery just before the crucial vote.
While no-one seemed to question the status of her veiled threat, it did the trick. The fear of missing out on all those euros was enough to sway five of the seven VVD rebels. The sale was voted through.
What price principles? And what price public opinion? We should not forget that the public, the effective owner of Essent and all the other energy companies, have never been asked what they think. Buy hey, just think of all those euros..
The second little example of how to take the money and run comes from prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende who, the Volkskrant informs us on Saturday, has decided not to meet the Dalai Lama during his short visit to the Netherlands in early June.
Apparently, says the paper, the threat of economic repercussions from China were too great. Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen will meet the Tibetan spiritual leader in his role as a religious man, and other religious leaders will also be present. But the meeting will be closed – ie no pictures to embarass the Chinese.
Of course, there is no reason why Balkenende should meet the Dalai Lama. He is obviously a busy man. But in the face of such blatant interference from China – ”We oppose any visit by the Dalai Lama to any country,’ China’s ambassador to the Netherlands told the NRC – the prime minister could have shown a little backbone.
But then, who cares about principles when there is so much money at stake?
Robin Pascoe is a founder of

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