22 September 2022, by Victoria Séveno
In what political experts have dubbed a unique event in Dutch history, the entire cabinet exited parliament in protest on Wednesday evening after Thierry Baudet, leader of Forum for Democracy (FvD), implied during a debate that Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag had been recruited as a spy during her time attending university in the UK.
FvD leader implies Kaag is a spy in debate in Dutch Parliament
Wednesday marked one of the most critical dates in the Dutch political calendar, as the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) was given a chance to respond to and debate the 2023 budget which was presented by the government on Prinsjesdag on Tuesday.
As Baudet took to the stand towards the end of the day, he made several comments about Kaag’s education at Oxford University, where he said Marxist students work and train spies. In his comments, the FvD leader implied that a secret service may have recruited the Dutch finance minister during her time as a student.
Kaag was quick to protest Baudet’s comments, and the speaker of the house, Vera Bergkamp, issued a warning, reminding Baudet that parliamentary debates were not an occasion for personal attacks to be made against members of the cabinet. When Baudet continued to insinuate that Kaag’s motivations might not be genuine, the finance minister left the House, followed only a few minutes later by all her fellow cabinet ministers.
Bergkamp asked Baudet to retract his statements, which the MP refused to do. Eventually, the speaker banned him from being able to participate in the rest of the debate. “I am cutting you off,” she said.
Prime Minister Rutte calls Baudet’s comments “unacceptable”
The cabinet’s protest received the support of the majority of the House, although a number pointed out that the decision had stolen attention from the importance of the matters up for debate. “It has to be about people’s financial problems, and now it’s about this again,” said Labour leader Attje Kuiken.
Eventually, Prime Minister Mark Rutte returned to the House alone. He said in a statement that Baudet’s words had “crossed a line.” He added: “This is unacceptable. In consultation with the rest of the cabinet I will sit here again, but everything depends on what else is said.”
On Wednesday evening, Kaag told the Dutch press that Baudet’s comments undermined the rule of law and democracy. “It’s not just about tonight and it’s not just about me,” the finance minister said. “The broader story is radicalisation. They are voices from the far right.” Kaag also defended her decision to leave in protest: “I thought: “This is my limit and I will not let anyone or anything put me away in such a way, not even in the parliament where I am a guest”. At one point I said to the prime minister, “I’m standing up, I’m not going to listen to this anymore”.”