Mark Rutte raises his hand to a man of about fifty who always waits for politicians at the Binnenhof and films: “Hey Cor, do you have a new problem today?” The man’s name is not Cor, he is trying to draw attention to abuses that he believes are there at the judiciary. “No,” he says. “I want…” “Oh, the same problem”, Rutte shouts. He turns around and enters the building of the Logement op het Plein, where informant Johan Remkes continues this Monday talks with VVD, CDA and D66 about a new cabinet – 194 days after the elections to the House of Representatives.
had in the morning The Telegraph reported that outgoing Prime Minister Rutte may have been the target of an attack or kidnapping. A police car was driving in circles in the Square. As is often the case, there were two Marechaussee cars at the Logement. And just like usual, Rutte walked, alone, from the Ministry of General Affairs to his appointment with the other political leaders – 180 meters, an apple in his hand, waving and laughing at a group of children. He only had to pay attention at the parking garage on the Plein, a Volvo drove out at a good speed. The car stopped in time and let Rutte go ahead.
Hiking in East Groningen
The Government Information Service says nothing about Rutte’s security. According to those involved, there have been serious threats against him for some time, but Rutte does not like surveillance that you can see. And so there is little to see so far.
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Only when Rutte had just become Prime Minister, in 2010, he still had visible security guards around him. An old school friend with whom Rutte went for a walk in East Groningen after the swearing in of the cabinet Rutte I saw how guards followed them, from a distance. Rutte had said that it was not necessary for him, but for his party colleague Ivo Opstelten, who had become Minister of Justice. On their way to Groningen they had hit Rutte’s Saab in a BMW.
At that time, guards also went with him when he went shopping for his mother on Saturdays, and they rented rooms in the hotels where Rutte stayed when he was abroad on holiday. But that didn’t last very long – Rutte found it annoying.
The people around him didn’t know how security was arranged after that, they saw no more guards. Although there were close associates who knew for sure: they would not lose sight of him.
Tissues for his mother
It’s possible. Although it is not always easy to imagine how to arrange that. A few years ago, he was once seen on Zuiderstrand in The Hague, with his mother – and almost no other walkers around. Rutte was once on a Saturday afternoon talking to people for hours on the sidewalk of a supermarket in Duindorp, in Scheveningen. That was not planned, he was cycling and needed paper tissues.
The lack of visible security sometimes makes people around him restless. During one of Rutte’s winter sports holidays in Switzerland, there were once two men who offered Rutte and his friends a bottle of wine worth about 400 Swiss francs and then wanted to have their picture taken with him. Rutte’s friends thought he should not do that, Rutte refused the wine and the photo and his friends then let him go down the stairs of the restaurant in front of them.
As if they were protecting him.
In the vicinity of the House of Representatives and Rutte’s ministry, there has been a permanent group of people who are angry at politicians and sometimes scold ministers for a long time. Rutte’s second television speech about corona, in December last year, was disrupted by dozens of people who beat pots and pans at the Hofvijver and shouted loudly. That noise had come as a surprise to Rutte and his people. The police had been unable to get the protesters away quickly, the screams being heard until the end of the speech.
The leaders of VVD, D66 and CDA sit together for hours on Monday. At the beginning of the evening there is a moment of unrest among the security guards in front of the Logement: someone has put a garbage bag against the building. They look at it, make some phone calls, and then one of the security guards takes the bag and runs away with it.
‘Cor’ will no longer be at Het Plein by then.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of September 28, 2021