The escort business

Senate leader and master of ceremonies Fred de Graaf quit his job because he couldn’t explain why Wilders was excluded from the group of MPs escorting the royal couple. Annemarie van Gaal thinks he should have been more businesslike. 

Every entrepreneur will participate in a tender at some time or other. It’s a frustrating business. A tender is meant to create a level playing field but sometimes even the most expert of entrepreneurs, whose price tag is 30% lower than that of the competition, will watch as the work passes him by.

Why? Sometimes the reason is quite trivial: the client knows the director’s neighbour or was impressed by the long words used in the texts. Whatever the reason, you will just have to accept this is the way it is. The client chooses and as long as he can come up with a reason, there’s not much you can do. You win some, you lose some.


Last week Fred de Graaf quit his job as Senate leader. He tripped over his choice of escort for the new king during the investiture. What I don’t understand about this story is that, according to the rules, he could choose whomever he wanted. Seniority, political preference, man or woman, it was up to De Graaf to take these into account up to whichever point he wanted.

After all, if it wasn’t, then why put De Graaf in charge at all?

And here’s where I’m really in the dark. Why did Wilders think he was next in line? On the basis of seniority? De Graaf could have said it’s ‘seniority of the party’ and that the PVV has only been in parliament since 2006, not long enough to claim seniority.

De Graaf could have picked his royal escort from the two oldest parties in both chambers, or only its latest members. He could have thought of dozens of legitimate reasons which would have excluded Wilders. He was making the rules.


So why did parliament spend two days discussing his choice? It seems to me it has better things to do with its time. Last month a record number of businesses went under. Extra cutbacks of €6bn were announced and youth unemployment is growing dramatically. Meanwhile parliament spends two whole days quarrelling about meaningless protocol.

And what does De Graaf do? He steps down. Reactions from ministers and MPs varied from ‘quite rightly too’ to ‘a wise decision’. Wise? He wasn’t wise enough to introduce a simple criterion for his selection. Had he done so, MPs, like any entrepreneur participating in a tender, would have had to accept his decision: you win some, you lose some.

Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur. She is head of AM Media and is a writer and television personality.

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