“This is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write,” Bart Snels wrote in his letter on Thursday evening suicide note to Speaker of the House of Representatives Vera Bergkamp. The message that Snels also posted on Twitter just before half past eight was equally difficult for his group members of GroenLinks. They had not foreseen the sudden departure of their financial spokesman. Those involved say they are “totally surprised”.
The letter of two A4 pages has also reached GroenLinks hard in terms of content. Snels (54 years old, Member of Parliament since 2017) wipes the floor in no uncertain terms with two things. First of all, the increasingly close cooperation with the Labor Party – “It is not clear to me what the PvdA really stands for and the opportunistic style of political conduct does not appeal to me.”
And completely painful: the leadership of Jesse Klaver. “I have […] I noticed that the group leadership gave me less and less space to participate in this conversation. It would be good if the group had a discussion about how decisions are taken and what the members of parliament have over the working method of the group and the composition of the group board.”
Liberal Social Profile
Snels’ letter not only expresses anger about the state of affairs within the group, but also frustration about the isolated position that he has been given. Since he was brought back to The Hague by the then newly appointed party leader Klaver in 2015, Snels has been part of the small team of closest advisers. First as a moderately paid parliamentary employee – the budget was exhausted – and from March 2017 as an elected member of parliament. He was rewarded with a high place on the candidate list for his loyal services as a political advisor and creative copywriter.
Also read: Do members of GroenLinks and PvdA like the left-wing bloc?
Despite their age difference – Snels was once still in class with Klaver’s mother in Roosendaal – the two also became good friends. During the 2017 election campaign, Snels was always close to the party leader and he was given a room in the corridor in the (old) House of Representatives building right next to that of the party leader.
This year Snels lost his place in ‘team Jesse’. During the campaign and especially after the election defeat in March (from 14 to 8 seats), Klaver moved more in the formation process to others at the top of the group, including the new number 2: Corinne Ellemeet. Politically, GroenLinks shifted more to the left this year, both in the election program and in the desire, often expressed by Klaver, to cooperate more closely with other left-wing parties. Also because of this, Snels noticed that he could leave his mark on the course of the game less and less. After all, he has a liberal-social profile, which was already apparent when he was head of information for the House of Representatives faction more than ten years ago, led by Femke Halsema.
Governing with or without PvdA
Snels was not the only one this summer who had great difficulty internally with working together with the PvdA in the formation process. He thought – and also described this in his resignation letter on Thursday – that GroenLinks should have gone into government anyway, with or without the PvdA. He thought that ‘linking’ to the Social Democrats was a wrong choice, strategically and substantively.
At the PvdA they never understood exactly why, but they did feel that Snels has something heartfelt against them. They felt great dissatisfaction that Snels, as initiator of the parliamentary investigation into the Allowances affair, in the summer of 2020, insisted on questioning the then PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher under oath and that this also had to take place before the elections. It also contributed to Asscher’s resignation as party leader in January. The PvdA has tried to swallow the dissatisfaction about this. But Snels continued to radiate that he has little interest in the PvdA.
Although the formation on the left has failed for the time being – VVD, D66 and CDA are now negotiating with the ChristenUnie about a new coalition agreement – the GroenLinks faction has decided, without Snels’ consent, to continue the cooperation with the PvdA. It is not yet clear how intensively exactly.
Bart Snels considers this a form of ‘voter fraud’, he wrote, because the voters of GroenLinks voted for the GroenLinks program. “My vote in the Chamber is based on a GroenLinks mandate, not on a mandate shared with the PvdA.” He ignores the fact that Klaver was already emphatically in favor of left-wing cooperation during the campaign – there was a joint poster with the first names of the party leaders of PvdA, SP and D66.
Party members, including those who ideologically do not belong to his circle, meanwhile regret the departure of an expert Member of Parliament. Snels was not a very conspicuous parliamentarian, but he fought substantively and successfully against tax avoidance by multinationals, among other things. He made the international financial press with his private member’s bill to have multinationals leaving the Netherlands pay dividend tax in arrears. Quite recently, he piloted another private member’s bill through the Senate, the Open Government Act, which, in line with the current call for a new administrative culture, calls on the central government to increase transparency. A partner in this bill was MP Joost Sneller, from his dream coalition partner D66.