I’m extremely excited that the Netherlands is returning to form and preparing to elect yet another middle-of-the-road, unexciting, comforting, responsible fatherly mediator figure as Prime Minister. For a while there it really looked possible that they would give in to the temptations of Islamophobic whack-job-dom and elect Geert Wilders’s far-right pro-ignorance PVV. But a new Maurice de Hond poll has Labor in the top slot with 33 seats– the first time that’s happened since I moved to the Netherlands in 1999 — and PVV fading to fourth place at 20 seats, behind the free-market center-right Liberals and the Christian Democrats. Labor leader Job Cohen’s profile is much more like that of Wim Kok, the Labor centrist whose “purple” left-right coalitions with the Liberals dominated Dutch politics in the 1990s, than that of Wouter Bos, the younger somewhat flashy good-looking fella who stepped down as Labor leader two months ago. Cohen, who has been Mayor of Amsterdam since approximately forever, is also renowned for having fostered unusually good interfaith relations and kept the peace between Muslims and Christians despite the potential flash-point of the Theo van Gogh murder and the constant provocations of Wilders.
Tangentially, Cohen would also be one of a very small number of Jewish prime ministers of countries other than Israel. Currently, Czech premier Jan Fischer is Jewish. But going further back, I can’t think of any other Jewish PMs until you get to Pierre Mendes France, who was French PM from 1952-55. But of course the PM was and remains a secondary role in France, and Mendes France was subordinate to President Charles de Gaulle. Back in the ’30s when the PM really was the leader of the government, the French had Leon Blum. Then in an earlier era you have New Zealand PM Julius Vogel and so forth. Surely there must be more recent ones, though; anybody?