Political Party Analysis: Labour Party (Netherlands)

The second party we will cover in our analysis of Dutch politics is the junior partner in the “Purple Coalition”, the Labour Party.

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Overview and History

The Dutch Labour Party is a center-left social democratic party that has traditionally been the largest left-wing party in the country since its foundation in 1946.  That has changed in recent years, though, as its power has waned due to challenges from the left-wing.  It currently holds the seventh most seats in the Dutch House of Representatives (lower house) and is in the opposition.  Previously, following the 2012 election, it served as the junior coalition partner in a “Purple Coalition” with the conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).  Historically the party has usually won the most or second most seats in parliament, with their main opponents being the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and, more recently, the VVD.  Despite these parties being their main opposition, they have also served as the Labour Party’s main coalition partners, along with the social-liberal Democrats 66 (D66).

Vice PM Lodewijk Asscher arrives at the Ministry of General
Labour Party Leader and Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher leads a lonely and lost party on the center-left. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: 6th

Labour is the sixth strongest party in the Netherlands following the 2017 elections.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Prime Minister: The party’s last Prime Minister was Wim Kok, who served from 1994 until 2001.  They have had two Vice-Prime Ministers since then.

House of Representatives: In 2017 the party received 5.7% of the vote and 9 out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.  It finished in 7th place.  The result was the worst in the history of the party, as they fell behind all of the traditionally weaker parties on the left and entered the opposition.

Senate: Labour won 8 out of the 75 seats in the Senate in the 2015 Senate Election, an extremely disappointing result, as the party lost 6 seats and fell from 2nd to 6th place.  Members are selected by the states, so this shows a drop in the popularity of the party across the regions since the 2012 parliamentary elections.

European Parliament: Labour is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, they finished in 6th place with 9.4% of the vote, 2.6% lower than their results from 2009, earning 3 out of the 26 seats allocated to the Netherlands.  This, combined with the Senate election results, have started to show the decline of the party since the 2012 election.

States: Labour holds 64 out of 570 seats throughout the state parliaments following the 2015 Regional Elections, which makes them the 6th strongest party throughout throughout the states.  It was a disappointing election for the party, losing 44 seats, that led to their losses in the Senate, as the regional parliaments select the members of the Senate.  Labour is holds the most seats (or are tied for the most seats) in 1 out of 12 states.

Following the 2017 Election

Labour collapsed in the 2017 election, receiving their worst vote total and seat count in the history of the party.  Much of the party’s support left for the left-wing environmental GroenLinks (GL) and various other small left-wing parties.  The party’s role as the head of the center-left was shattered as Labour no longer has the support to even be the leader in opposition.  The party’s left wing has joined the Socialist Party (SP) and GroenLinks, while many of the more moderate members have joined the social liberal Democrats 66.  It is a party without a true identity or purpose, and it will need to find one soon if it wants to survive the challenges of the left-wing.

As of September of 2018, opinion polling shows the party’s support remaining stable at around 5% to 6%.


Economic and Fiscal Policy

Labour supports a mixed economy with partial government control of the economy and partial market control of the economy.  They advocate for progressive income taxation, increasing taxes on the rich and decreasing them for the middle and lower classes.  The party also calls for the expansion of “green” taxes against polluters.  For the minimum wage, Labour wants to increase them and decrease the full-time hour requirements.  A major focus for the social-democrats is their equality measures for female employment, especially their requirement that there be enough women on every corporate Board of Directors.  They also want male equality in parental leave requirements, extending them to match the requirements for women.  Labour wants intense regulation of banks and a doubling in the bank tax as well.  For healthcare, the party believes the market has failed to provide adequate coverage and that movement towards a more socialized medical system should be implemented.  For energy policy they advocate subsidization of renewable energy in conjunction with the earlier mentioned “green” taxes.  Labour also hopes to expand employment by increasing the amount of public sector workers.  For the budget, they break from traditionally left-wing ideas by advocating a completely balanced budget and increasing military spending.

Liberty Rating*:  D

Social and Foreign Policy 

The social-democrats follow traditional center-left views on social policy with supporting continued legalization of marijuana and gay-marriage while increasing protections for LGBTQ rights.  The party is also against the death penalty, which is already illegal in the country.  They support access to euthanasia.  While they do call for surveillance and cyber-defense, they call for respecting the privacy rights of citizens against government intervention.  The refugee crisis has brought the integration to the forefront, and Labour advocates accepting refugees but calls for deportation (not of children) if they fail to integrate.  They hold a somewhat accepting policy on immigration, while holding similar policies on integration.  While they do support integration, they also call for laws against discrimination, including keeping “hate speech” a crime.  They are completely pro-choice when it comes to abortion.  For foreign policy, the party is somewhat interventionist, calling for limited use of the military against terrorist groups throughout Europe and the Middle East.  They support the European Union and the Euro as well.

Liberty Rating*:  C+

Political Spectrum**

labour-dutch-spectrum

Based on our liberty ratings for the Labour’s economic and social policy, the party is a center-left social democratic party, leaning more towards the “Authoritarian” sector than the “Libertarian” sector.  Their support for a mixed economy instead of a socialist one puts them near the middle of the “Left” sector instead of being farther to the lower left.  Labour’s mixed support for social liberties also puts it into the “Left” sector instead of the “Authoritarian” sector, as the they make efforts to protect privacy and support soft-drug legalization, gay-marriage, etc.

Read our analysis of other Dutch Political Parties:


*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Dutch politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.

Author: Brendan Noble

I am a political consultant, data-analyst, Hillsdale College economics alumnus, and conservative-libertarian. Twitter: @Brendan_Noble

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