That is the provisional summary of a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Den Bosch. Hundreds of members there wanted clarification about the ‘insecurity’ in the party, including after a MeToo affair and an impending split in the D66 faction in Brussels. Kaag and party chairman Victor Everhardt still addressed the members publicly after hours of closed sessions. Despite this, questions remained unanswered, when one of the members shouted through the room at the end of the afternoon that no real answers had come. Something that Everhardt acknowledges on his ‘day of reflection and above all of self-reflection’. “We are still addressing the questions that remain.” Whether he himself draws conclusions from his leadership? In any case, that means no resignation now, according to the party bosses. As far as he’s concerned, that’s what the members are about.
During an earlier much-discussed press conference, he, together with Kaag, already went through the dust about the way of dealing with a former employee who experienced a MeToo affair. On Sunday afternoon, the party posted a correction on the D66 site about the handling of the matter. “With the current knowledge, the current board believes that it should have been explicitly included that there was cross-border behavior and that openness should have prevailed,” said the party that closed its doors to journalists on Sunday during substantive sessions and earlier a confidential meeting. kept the appendix of the investigation report in question at the bottom of the drawer. The board also says it has reached an agreement with the victim, a former employee, about “financial compensation.”
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Still, closed shutters were needed in Den Bosch on Sunday afternoon, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren defended that board decision. “People who have concerns or have experienced things should be able to discuss this openly with each other.” ‘No’, is the firm answer of party leaders such as Hans Vijlbrief, Robbert Dijkgraaf or Alexandra van Huffelen to the question whether they had previously received signals of transgressive behavior within the party. Ollongren, who has known the party bosses Frans van Drimmelen for years (including from The Hague), who have since left after MeToo accusations, has also received no previous signals about unsafe situations, she declares. They all come to ‘listen’ to the members, who accuse the cabinet clique of thinking too much ‘top-down’ instead of ‘bottum-up’.
State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief (Mining) indicates that the perils within D66 have not bothered him. “It doesn’t make you happy,” he says upon arrival. “We set high standards for ourselves.” Party leader Kaag also says this in her speech. “We have raised a lot of expectations. We must comply with these like no other”, she promises to get better. Kaag says that her has been ‘heavy’ in recent weeks. “The experiences of insecurity and transgressive behavior also affect me. I have experienced in these weeks how difficult it can be to act carefully, to give the right tone and to find and be understood.” When asked how she herself wants to change that, she says: ‘There are lessons to be learned in this regard for me too’.
D66 party chairman Jan Paternotte says he already started a discussion within his own group about the values of the party last week. “I have also sent the code of conduct that we have to all members of the House of Representatives of our group with the request to sign it. To show: it’s not just the code that counts, but I really stand for it.” He also promises to keep the conversation going in parliament.