The installation of Johan Houwers as MP and chairman of brand new parliamentary party-of-one Houwers has come and gone. It didn’t get much coverage and the general opinion seemed to be one of complete indifference: ‘What can you do, those are the rules.’ It deserves another column at least.
An expelled member of the VVD sits on the bench for two years and, for the simple reason that it is his turn, it falls to him to occupy an open seat. Houwers doesn’t see it this way: ‘I was voted in,’ he says. It’s very odd. Houwers didn’t get enough preferential votes to assume he was voted in.
After he was – rightly – made to leave in 2013, he was awarded severance pay. The payments into his MP’s pension never stopped as they would for ordinary mortals who have been given the sack. Not a bad deal.
Houwers’ pay-out extended over a period of 38 months. More than half of that time has now passed, but now that he is an MP once more he will get a nice little extra on top of his already generous income of €120,000. And as party chairman he is also allowed an annual €150,000 budget.
Suppose this cabinet manages to complete its term. That means that in March 2017 Houwers qualifies for another 38 months of severance pay. He will be coasting towards 2020 on a very comfortable monthly income, with a great pension to boot. Houwers will be 63 in 2020. ‘I’ll take it from there,’ he says.
The VVD is talking of ‘a shameless case of seat robbing’ but I’m sure Houwers will vote for any VVD proposal that comes along. What surprises me is that this sort of thing is still allowed to happen. It’s money and talent down the drain. We’re saddled with a useless MP who will cost the taxpayer over two million euros over ten years when we could have had someone worthwhile in his place.
Suppose you’re a football player and you end up on the bench. If a player is injured during a match would you expect the substitute to be the one who was there longest? No, you would want the best player to go in, one who will win the match for you.
The rules are making us waste money and talent. I hope this particular mismatch will irritate parliament into changing them. Then Houwers will have been good for something after all.
Annemarie van Gaal is an investor