It is probably quite easy to resign as a minister when you know there is an election nine weeks away anyway. Justice minister Piet Hein Donner, facing his third sticky patch as a minister, and planning minister Sybilla Dekker, were very quick to hand in their resignations yesterday after publication of the damning Schiphol fire report.
One could say Donner and Dekker had little choice given they head the two main government departments criticised for breaking their own rules. And the report, coming just two days after the budget, was threatening to overshadow the feel-good mood the current coalition wants to take into the election campaign. Resign now and you will not only be seen to have done the decent thing, but you won’t have to face MPs’ questions and feature in any more negative headlines. And Dekker had already said she was leaving politics anyway.
But Donner is a wily character and kept emphasising that he was taking political, not personal, responsibility for the fire – which resulted in the death of 11 people awaiting deportation. Could he as a minister really be held personally responsible if some lowly official decided to put government policy –reducing red tape and excessive regulation — into action and cut a few corners?