Wednesday 08 December 2021

Asscher faces party rumblings over role in benefits scandal

Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher.

Lodewijk Asscher in his time as minister. Photo: regering.nl

Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher is facing questions from within his own party over his suitability to lead the party into next year’s elections because of his role in the childcare benefits scandal.

Asscher was minister of social affairs from 2012 to 2017, the period in which thousands of parents were wrongly treated as fraudsters and ordered to pay back thousands of euros in childcare benefit support.

Last week, the parliamentary inquiry into the scandal published a damning report, saying an ‘unparalleled wrong’ had been done to the parents.

On Monday the Labour leader apologised saying  he was ‘filled with shame’ at his failure to act.

The local Labour party in Hoeksche Waard has written a letter stating that Asscher had ‘contributed actively to trampling all classic social democratic values’ and that an apology was not enough, effectively telling him to step down.

In addition, RTL Nieuws reportedly had access to a party app group consisting of parliamentary candidates and people close to the election campaign in which similar opinions were aired.

Anonymous sources confirmed to broadcaster NOS that there is opposition to Asscher’s position in the party but political commentator and Labour party expert Wilco Boom said that he didn’t think Asscher need worry.

‘Nothing is certain in politics but many see in Asscher the man who can successfully confront Rutte. They also point to Rutte and Wiebes as having a much bigger role in the benefit scandal,’ he told the broadcaster.

The cabinet is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the implications of the report as far as compensating the parents is concerned. Prime minister Rutte refused last week to be drawn on whether or not the affair is serious enough for the whole cabinet to step down.

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