SP MP Renske Leijten quits “toxic and slow” political bubble

Renske Leijten has been an MP since 2006. Photo: ANP/Peter Hilz

Fellow politicians have expressed their regret at the decision by long-serving SP MP Renske Leijten to leave parliament.

Leijten, who has represented the Socialist party as an MP for almost 17 years, said it was “time to leave the The Hague bubble and get involved with democracy in another way”.

“It’s time to find out what is happening in society and organise people there,” she was quoted in the announcement on the SP website.

In a speech to party members Leijten called the political culture in The Hague “toxic” and “slow”. It is not yet clear what Leijten’s plans are but she said she would remain active for the party.

During her years as an MP, the 44-year-old, who was her party’s health care spokeswoman, played a central role in uncovering the tax office scandal which led to the resignation of Mark Rutte’s third cabinet in January 2021.

Thousands of parents were wrongly accused of defrauding the childcare tax allowance system. They were ordered them to pay back tens of thousands of euros without recourse to debt relief, obstructed their efforts to seek redress and illegally discriminated against families with dual passports.

Leijten, along with then CDA MP Pieter Omtzigt and Denk MP Farid Azarkan, became a staunch supporter of the wronged families, slating the dragged-out compensation scheme which “still leaves people out in the cold”.

“Voice for the people”

Socialist Party leader Lilian Marijnissen had nothing but praise for Leijten. “She is a real voice for the people, always involved, always enthusiastic and accessible to all,” she said.

“Renske shows how to be active in parliament without becoming part of the parliamentary establishment. She will continue to work for the party, but we shall miss her terribly in The Hague.”

PvdA leader Attje Kuiken said it was “a great pity” Leijten was leaving, citing her “thorough knowledge of the subject matter, great passion and combativeness”.

BBB leader Caroline van der Plas said she regarded Leijten as a role model and her absence would be “a great loss”.

Fellow “bulldog” Pieter Omtzigt praised Leijten’s role in the child benefit scandal, saying: “Renske gave her all for parliament and for everyone in the Netherlands, particularly those who are not heard or seen.”

Leijten will officially bid farewell to her colleagues in parliament on Tuesday.

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