Labour party woes: Aboutaleb and Asscher to the rescue

pvda labour logoThis weekend the Labour party held a two-day conference to set itself up for the provincial elections in March. The party is seriously suffering in the polls and is on course to lose many seats.

Communications advisor Ton Planken thinks Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher are well-placed to build bridges – and help Labour over its electoral slump at the same time.

A surprising by-product of the wave of indignation that followed the attack on Charlie Hebdo is that we have witnessed the emergence of the new leader of the Labour party: Ahmed Aboutaleb. He speaks to us like no other Labour politician since Joop den Uyl.

If Labour knows what is good for it, it will persuade Aboutaleb to head the list for the next general elections and if it links him to Lodewijk Asscher as well the electoral fortunes of the party could soar.

Two great politicians, one from Amsterdam and one from Rotterdam, the best Labour has to offer. Granted, Frans Timmermans is good too, but I’m sure he would support Aboutaleb’s candidacy. Number three on the list would be Jeroen Dijsselbloem. All three are tried and tested politicians with faultless records.

Juicy soundbite

What is more, Aboutaleb and Asscher both represent two important minorities in Dutch society. They express what the Netherlands stands for – that anyone, regardless of his or her background, can reach the highest echelons the country has to offer.

Ahmed Aboutaleb would be able to attract many Muslims who are opposed to radical Islam and so unite people instead of dividing them like Geert Wilders.

Why are these two so appealing? It’s because they have a vision, unlike Rutte who managed to solemnly declare he had ‘no vision.’ They are ready to take the initiative, to warn, to organise. To tell us roundly what threats await us and what the situation is.

Both are mediagenic – a criterion that unfortunately weighs all too heavily on politics but there we are. Both look good, both are good speakers who don’t often take refuge in clichés. They know the media needs a juicy soundbite every once in a while. Both men incorporate new elements in their public statements. That means that where the media are concerned the battle will be half won already.
They also have the gun factor because they are authentic: their anger and indignation look real. Because of this they can easily cope with news shows and election debates without having to demonstrate the kind of desperation that was Job Cohen’s hallmark.

Diederik Samsom

The only thing they have to do is to develop a vision on how to increase the country’s earning capacity. Make the cake bigger instead of divvying it up in increasingly disparate portions. They should have a clear idea of how to continue the sustainability drive – a fine job for Diederik Samsom in the new cabinet or parliamentary party.

They must also look at possibly tough measures to limit immigration and prevent the emergence of home-grown jihadists. But they don’t need me to tell them that.

It is possible that Labour, faced with the coming provincial elections and the election of the Senate – and a collapsing cabinet – can perhaps, thanks to the effect of the ruthless actions of a couple of jihadists, look to a brighter future.

Ton Planken is a communication advisor and a former political commentator

This article appeared earlier in Trouw

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