Politicians love of style over substance is now so deeply ingrained that it’s apparently unthinkable for the three parties trying to form a new government to proceed without a handy little mission statement to guide their way.
It’s not a new trend, of course. The coalition accord drawn up for the 1994 cabinet, led by PvdA leader Wim Kok, was simply called ‘Coalition Accord’ – but was later given the motto ‘Work, work and more work’.
Kok’s second cabinet scrapped the slogans but as soon as the Christian Democrats returned to power in 2002, they were back. ‘Working on trust, a question of getting on with it,’ was the mouthful applied to Jan Pieter Balkenende’s first government.
That cabinet fell apart rather quickly – not much trust there then – but the pattern had been set.
In 2003, the CDA and PvdA started coalition talks under the motto ‘Change for strength and quality’ (it sounds better in Dutch). Luckily, the two parties did not see eye to eye and the negotiations were abandoned.
The coalition that eventually emerged as Balkenende II came up with the highly imaginative ‘Join in, more work, fewer rules’ (lots of alliteration with the ‘m’ in Dutch).
Sources tell the Volkskrant Balkenende is keen to build the new catch-phrase around the words ‘new elan’ this time round. We can’t wait.