From holiday to disaster weekend: did Rutte try to stop the king?

The intended autumn holiday trip of the king caused a lot of social commotion also did not fall well in the House of Representatives. From left to right, it was called unwise that the king should take a holiday in Greece, while the population was called earlier in the week stay at home as much as possible in connection with containment of the corona outbreak.

On Friday evening, King Willem-Alexander announced through the Government Information Service (RVD) that he would abort his holiday to Greece after fuss had arisen about this trip. Rutte writes this morning in a letter to the House that he has been informed in advance by the king. “I have made a wrong assessment”, he said.

Rutte is responsible

The prime minister is responsible for the king and is therefore accountable. The king himself does not provide an explanation, it has been established. The relationship between the king and the prime minister is one of the great secrets in The Hague. For example, nothing ever comes out about the weekly talks between the king and the prime minister.

A trip of the king to Greece is not just planned. There are weeks of preparation due to security and availability of the government aircraft. According to a source in The Hague, all ministries were also told last week that the king would not be present during the autumn holidays.

It is not clear how many people knew exactly that he was going to Greece. In principle, the king does not have to explicitly ask Prime Minister Rutte for permission if he wants to undertake a private activity, such as a visit to his second home or his sailing ship. However, the King must let the prime minister know where he is, because the prime minister is politically responsible.

Were there any doubts?

When was Prime Minister Rutte informed about the trip? And did no one around the king have any doubts after the whole of the Netherlands was advised to stay at home? Much remains shrouded in mystery because of that ministerial responsibility.

Rutte writes today in a letter to the House that he has been informed by the king in advance. “I have made a wrong assessment”, he says. However, it remains unclear when the prime minister was informed by the king and exactly what he said.

A striking moment is the press conference by Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge on Friday afternoon (who replaced Rutte because of the EU summit).

To questions from De Telegraaf about the king’s holiday, De Jonge replied: ‘I am not aware of that’, as can be seen in the video below. The deputy director general of the Government Information Service, who is also the king’s spokesman, leads the press conference and repeats De Jonge’s answer.

Earlier that Friday afternoon, tweets from the well-informed aviation journalist Menno Swart: the government plane is ready to take off. Prime Minister Rutte is at an EU summit in Brussels at the time and is in the middle of the Brussels hectic. Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge is busy with the Council of Ministers and is preparing for many questions about corona afterwards.

Rutte was not aware of the exact flying times of the king, it can be heard. In preparation for the press conference in The Hague, the first messages on Twitter are signaled and an attempt is made to find out whether the king has really left.

Contact with the king is no longer useful then. The plane has already taken off at 2:05 pm, so it is too late to stop the journey. But it is not clear.

Didn’t get ahold

Nobody wants to confirm whether Rutte has spoken to the king before leaving. Anyone who lists the course of events can conclude that Rutte did not get hold of the king, otherwise the aircraft would never have taken off.

De Jonge’s answer (‘It is not known to me’) is too evasive, it now appears. The correct answer should have been “We have seen the messages and are working on them.”

Rutte writes in the letter to Parliament that De Jonge was not aware of the intended holiday during the press conference on Friday afternoon, when the minister was asked about it by journalists. “I had not informed him about this in advance, in accordance with the usual working method for this subject”, Rutte writes. According to Rutte, De Jonge gives that answer because it is not yet clear whether the journey would continue or not.

The top official of the RVD can only repeat De Jonge’s statements. At that time there is no clarification about the king. And any other answer would embarrass the Deputy Prime Minister. An impossible dilemma for a spokesperson at a press conference.

Doubts to the Prime Minister

Behind the scenes, government parties can hear that there are doubts about the prime minister: is Rutte sharp enough on the king? In defense of Rutte: in The Hague it can also be heard that the king can sometimes be very stubborn on earlier issues in the past.

In the cabinet, other ministers are very surprised at how this went. “It is described as a real mess, and then the word ‘mess’ is a neat version,” said political reporter Fons Lambie. “This is a disaster weekend, for the king and for the top of the cabinet.”

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