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House: 'Minister van Engelshoven has passed baptism of fire'. (Why the VVD needs to find a new culture spokesperson)

The debate on the 2017 culture budget on Monday 13 November was a breath of fresh air. Not because there was suddenly a lot more money coming out of any top hat, but rather because there was a minister with vision. And with room to express that vision. After seven years full of pushing and pulling and rejected motions, cash shift operations and bicycle bell shop there was finally air in the room again.

Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven seems determined to repair the damage of recent years. And more than that. In taking a stand on the copyright law and competition law, for example, clearly sides with the makers, often small independents without power against the big market players. The Cultural Diversity Code says she will apply in the new arts plan. Was the fair practice code ready, she had applied them too.


During the debate, which took place in a remarkably good atmosphere, the VVD was even briefly in the doldrums. Not because of a successful joke by the opposition, but because of an observation by the minister himself. Coalition partner VVD likes to harp on the so-called Thorbecke doctrine, saying that not only should the government not have an opinion on culture, but also not give money to the arts. According to the minister, Thorbecke was only concerned with an opinion, not the question of subsidy.

A little later, the VVD, through spokesman Arno Rutte, made a plea to only subsidise certain vulnerable art forms, but certainly not pop music. The minister then finely pointed out to Rutte his lack of consistency. After all, he was not only advocating subsidy, but also attaching a substantive judgement to it. Only the PVV agreed with Arno Rutte. 

New relationships

For now, we can conclude that with this minister, D66 has made a good move to break the malaise. Opposition parties GroenLinks and PvdA could only cheer on the sidelines. Almost all parties unanimously concluded that the minister had passed her baptism of fire well. We can also conclude that the VVD should look for a better-educated culture spokesperson. After many years in which lack of expertise was a prerequisite for a spokesperson with the Liberals, this was a clear reality check.

Whether the PVV will ever again be capable of a fresh position in the culture debate? That question, after seven years of repeated positions on outdated topics, can now be answered with a heartfelt 'no'. Rising star on culture Forum for Democracy was conspicuous by its absence. 

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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