In the campaign for the provincial elections in March, the ChristenUnie spread
in which Gert-Jan Segers is bored at home. Nobody calls him yet. Segers had resigned as party leader in January, he had left politics. “I did not walk with my soul under my arm,” he says now. But also: “The first few weeks I kept thinking: oh yes, it is Tuesday. So now they have group discussions, now they have this, then that. And now I only think: it’s Tuesday, and tomorrow Wednesday.”
Bemachtig onze unieke 8D audiobeleving ‘Of je worst lust?!’ Hopelijk krijg jij ‘m doorgestuurd! #ruimtevoorelkaar pic.twitter.com/OaulV5IVAc— ChristenUnie (@christenunie) March 10, 2023
It took a few months for Klaas Dijkhoff, who stepped down as VVD party chairman in 2021. “I woke up every Sunday morning for a long time with a kind of stress, looking for Maurice de Hond’s poll. I didn’t actually take it seriously, but in The Hague it is taken seriously. A bad poll means: more apps, more hassle. The Telegraph then pick that up. When I found out that I had apparently been so stressed about it all these years, I found it quite annoying.”
Also read this article: When a party leader leaves: the ideal succession does not exist
Breaking free from politics is difficult, especially if you have had an influential position for years. Segers started writing a book. Dijkhoff started a consultancy firm, SUE & The Alchemists. For this conversation, he makes coffee with oat milk in his office in Breda.
Dijkhoff and Segers are starting a weekly podcast about politics, the first episode can be listened to this Friday via podcast platform Podimo. Dijkhoff had the idea and asked Segers to participate a few months ago. The name, Dijkhoff and Segers, is not very original, they admit. They had first Courteous figured out, they want to show every episode that no matter how different they think, they treat each other with courtesy. And also considered: Out-courteous, “because we are gone”. “We have opted,” says Klaas Dijkhoff, “for optimum clarity.”
As party chairmen of a government party, they have long been pillars of the Rutte III cabinet, of the parties VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie. They often disagreed: about migration, about special education, or about dividend tax. But it is not the intention that they “re-enact the debate of the week,” says Dijkhoff. They want to talk about politics from their different ‘points of departure’: for Segers that is ‘the social-Christian tradition’, for Dijkhoff individual freedom and ‘progress optimism’. However, he corrects himself: “I just saw a poster hanging at the hairdresser with the text: ‘The inventor of the ship was also the inventor of the shipwreck. Don’t be indoctrinated by the propaganda of progress.’”
Why did you quit politics if you enjoy talking about it so much?
Also read this article: Klaas Dijkhoff (VVD) leaves politics: ‘I don’t want to die out here either’
Dijkhoff: “I thought for a while: I’m not going to say anything anymore. Because then you will be on the radio once and then politicians from other parties will use your statements again. And now I am again, as we say at conferences, ‘the Dijkhoff member from Breda’. I also understand that if I say something, it is different from any other member from Breda. So I was very careful about it, and kept my distance for two years. Now I’m starting to have opinions again.”
Segers: “It will be much more reflective than the harsh current events. It’s about work and life in politics, how complicated it can be to come to a political decision. I like that. But there is zero urge to get involved again. No, that’s just done.”
What do you want with this podcast?
Dijkhoff: “I hope that people will listen and that we, although that may sound strange, can set a good example. That you can hear from us how to disagree with each other in a decent way. That you don’t put each other in a box based on identity or a different opinion and say: I can’t talk to you. I’m guessing it won’t be an instant hit either, this podcast, because in the media you see how the flanks dominate. With subjects I know nothing about, I still get the idea that I have to choose a camp. And then the other camp is angry. And in your camp there are increasingly strict rules that you have to comply with in order to still belong. This week I saw
: that you should not protest against subsidies for the fossil industry with a plastic lunch box. And I see the other camp congratulating themselves for never sending such a silly tweet. And meanwhile nothing happens, no rapprochement. Everyone is feeling smug because they said it nicely again.”
Met polyester rugzak en plastic broodtrommel protesteren tegen de fossiele industrie. Het kan. https://t.co/aJBJWQ5jlV— BBB BoerBurgerBeweging 🍀🍀🍀 (@BoerBurgerB) May 21, 2023
Segers: “I think we can also show how difficult management can be from time to time. How difficult you sometimes come to choices. I think we can explain that. We have had difficult conversations every Monday morning in the coalition consultations for years. So we can draw on that.”
Each podcast episode of the two former party chairmen, lasting 45 minutes, will have a regular section: the Gebiten Hond. “A find of Klaas”, says Segers. “About someone who is the piss pole of the week, and the intention is that we will show that there is also another side. In the pilot episode we talked about my fellow party member, State Secretary for Youth Care Maarten van Ooijen. He had said in an interview that there was a lot of demand for youth services, so we were all angry. But he did have a serious point. As it is now, that is unsustainable. So we try to show: what point did he want to make? But of course we will not frantically defend people.”
Dijkhoff: “It must also be defensible.”
Segers: “I also thought of Mei Li Vos’ tweet about Putin.” In February, Vos, party leader of the PvdA in the Senate, tweeted: “We can do it!”, with a news report about the fact that gas consumption had been very low. And also: “Thanks Putin, for the insight.”
Dijkhoff: “I thought that was a wonderful tweet, it shows the complexity of the brain. If you ask the person who sends such a tweet, what do you actually mean, you often hear: yes, I don’t really know that either.”
Is the message of that regular column that politicians are being treated too harshly, in your opinion?
Segers: „I do think that there is sometimes clumsy football. That everyone goes wild on someone who sends a clumsy tweet or makes a stupid comment in an interview.”
Dijkhoff: “The bitten dog is someone who doesn’t really deserve that – or maybe a little, but not so excessively.”
If there is another crisis in The Hague about asylum and migration in the coming weeks, and you are going to make an episode about it, will you first call Sophie Hermans (VVD party chairman) and Mirjam Bikker (CU party chairman?)
Also read this article: CU leader Gert-Jan Segers leaves: ‘I worked in politics with heart and soul, but this is not my life
Dijkhoff “If I don’t understand something.”
Segers: „This morning I happened to have Mirjam on the phone. But I like being able to speak for myself now. I have no party on my neck.”
Dijkhoff: “We are sitting comfortably in the margins doing public therapy…”
Dijkhoff: “And then there is no rooster crowing. And if people do listen to it a lot, they will call us themselves. Then we can choose whether or not to include it. But I don’t need spin. Or that we stand up for a party. Certainly not for my own party. If they start to depend on me and our podcast, they better shut up.”
In The Hague they will see it differently. A podcast like this can have an impact, right?
Dijkhoff: “No, you are right. I will not hide behind the argument: I am only one of the seventeen million Dutch people. But I think after two years… (he looks at Segers) or after four months, also: I am not going to keep my mouth shut for the rest of my life.”
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of May 26, 2023.
Tags: Klaas Dijkhoff GertJan Segers start political podcast public therapy margins-