There is an electric Audi at the charging station in front of Sjopperdepop BV, the real estate company of Wybren van Haga. There are solar panels on the roof of the office.
No, Van Haga declares, he really hasn’t changed a person since he left Forum for Democracy in May of this year. It was his second farewell: in 2019 the VVD expelled him from the group because he continued to interfere with his real estate activities as a Member of Parliament. In his thinking, he says himself, he has remained the same all this time. “A culturally conservative classical liberal.”
Only now, as a Member of Parliament, is he really his own boss. Van Haga founded a new party this summer with Olaf Ephraim and Hans Smolders, the two MPs who left the FVD with him: Belang van Nederland (BVNL). It must become “an adult party”, says Van Haga, without FVD situations. He plans to run for municipal elections next year.
Van Haga was „with a hugleft Forum, party leader Thierry Baudet said after the split. A month later, he called Van Haga “corrupt” and “corruptible”. This tension can also be felt in parliament. In the old House of Representatives building, where Van Haga and the FVD faction shared a corridor, an image of an owl appeared shortly after the breakup, its eyes focused on Van Haga’s faction. A reference to Minerva’s Owl? Van Haga does not know, but in the new Chamber Building he has arranged a different place in the building, away from Forum, just to be safe.
The FVD chapter is thus closed if it is up to him. But there are still some misunderstandings to be cleared up. That he is still seen as the face of the corona skepticism with which FVD won eight seats in the elections to the House of Representatives, for example. It’s not that simple, he says.
You have not been vaccinated?
“New. If the risk assessment of the vaccine turns out to be favourable, you should above all voluntarily take that vaccine yourself. Coincidentally, I have people in my vicinity who have an immune deficiency. They take a vaccine in consultation with their doctor. Very good. As long as we don’t force it.”
Forum for Democracy did not sound so nuanced during the campaign.
“I have not changed an inch in my corona position. I still tell the same story and nothing has changed. Stop the measures, protect the vulnerable, scale up IC capacity, voluntarily take a vaccine if you want to.”
Do you still subscribe to the reading that the vaccine is ‘a ridiculous form of experimental gene therapy’?
“No, I never said that.”
Thierry Baudet does. And you stood next to him on the podium as he spoke during the campaign.
„Guilt by association. But it’s true, Forum is much more extreme about that than I am. Thierry recently tweeted that the vaccine is an injection to gain full control over our bodies, because nanoparticles are injected and that we will then be controlled with 5G. Well, of course I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in any conspiracy theory, I don’t believe the Rockefellers are behind everything, I don’t believe there are lizards in some people.”
You got 241,000 preferential votes. There are many voters among them who now say with surprise: hey, this is not the Van Haga I voted for.
“A lot of people think Forum and I are fishing in the same pond. But Forum has a very large conservative-religious constituency, just like the SGP and JA21, which are incredibly conservative in the medical-ethical field. These are also very often people who are strongly against a vaccine. We don’t address them at all. Those are other people. If they want to join Forum or the SGP or JA21: fine. We are a different party.”
And that is?
“A clear party that is economically right-wing and culturally conservative. He says: you can be proud of your country, but the role of the government should be smaller. There is a huge need for such a party.”
Yes? The VVD is in every poll, no matter what, at 35 seats.
“That is unimaginable. I don’t understand why two million entrepreneurs vote for the VVD, which then squanders their interests.”
BVNL argues in the founding manifesto for a migration stop. Does that also mean: zero refugees?
“Refugees are a different category, you have to treat them with compassion. Preferably in the region. We certainly don’t want any economic migrants. That is simply not possible, just look at the housing market. That doesn’t fit.”
The size of that group is minimal. If you look at numbers, there are many more labor migrants.
“Those are Europeans. That migration is actually beneficial. I think a lot of migrant workers do really good work. Poles and Slovaks in construction, for example, are working themselves to the bone. But of the Eritreans who have arrived here, 90 percent are still not working after two years. That is disturbing.”
That sounds like an FVD story.
“Forum is looking for a fuss, I don’t like that, but I think that we subscribe to the Forum program for 80 percent. The election program of the VVD was also 80 percent fine. The problem with the VVD is that it does not adhere to the election program.”
Have you been gardened twice? At the VVD and then at the FVD?
“Well no. When I became a member in 1982, the VVD was a very right-wing liberal party. Sometimes it got so left that you were about to cancel your membership. But then another Bolkestein came and you were completely happy again. No, I have never regretted my membership of the VVD.”
It’s not a question about regret, it’s a question about political insight. Do you have that?
“It’s not up to me. The selection committee of the VVD continues to put people in the group who are a lot more left-wing than the program. And Forum is a kind of young start-up. In my opinion, the election program said nothing about having its own pillar, its own dating app, its own currency, its own Forumland, its own school. That was all new.”
In a world without a home, Baudet is now looking for refuge
You joined Forum after Baudet’s Moroccan tweet. And you were not off the list when the racist statements he made at a dinner in Tiel leaked out in November.
“I wasn’t there for that dinner. Afterwards I asked: what was discussed there? The lectures varied. I have never noticed any racism or fascism or anti-Semitism in the party. Never. So from my own perception I have nothing at all.”
You don’t blame yourself?
“What I may have done wrong is that I looked at each incident individually. And every incident in itself, you could say that you can live with that explanation. But there were a lot of incidents. And if you list all the incidents, you can see a trend. I think my misjudgment was that I didn’t see that trend until after the election.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of October 13, 2021